How to Tell When You Need Antibiotics for an Ear Infection

side profile sick female with ear pain

Earaches are the most common reason why parents bring their children to the doctors. In fact, before the age of three, 5 out of 6 kids will experience an earache.

Because kids’ ears don’t drain as well as adults, it is much more common for kids to get ear infections. But adults can get them as well.

If you’re having severe pain in your ear that lasts for days, you may need medical attention. Here’s how to tell if you need antibiotics for an ear infection.

Common Types of Ear Infections

The two most common types of ear infections are in the middle ear or the outer ear.

An infection in the middle ear often follows a cold or respiratory problem. The infection moves to the ears through the eustachian tubes causing them to swell.

Infections in the outer ear — sometimes referred to as swimmer’s ear — are usually caused by an outside source such as water. If water sits in the ear for too long, it can cause the skin to break down and become a breeding ground for bacteria.

Seek medical attention immediately if you have nausea, dizziness, or vomiting along with ear pain. You may have a more serious issue with your inner ear.

When to Seek Treatment

If you are having ear pain, you may want to wait a day or two to see if the pain will go away on its own. Often earaches will get better after a few days without any medical intervention.

Some ways to treat the pain in your own home include:

  • Pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
  • Warm compress on the infected ear

If you are still having pain after a few days, have developed a fever, or if the pain has gotten worse, then you will need to see a medical professional.

Antibiotics For An Ear Infection

Years ago, the standard procedure for treating ear infections was to prescribe an antibiotic every time someone had an earache.

Because of this, antibiotics were used too frequently. The general population built up a resistance making them not as effective as they used to be. For this reason, your doctor may not give you an antibiotic right away, even if you do have an ear infection.

Some ear infections are viral and an antibiotic wouldn’t help anyway. If an earache doesn’t go away on its own, then your doctor will give you the appropriate antibiotic to help your ear heal quicker. Often times it will be drops that go in the ear rather than an oral medication.

Making a Full Recovery

If your doctor does prescribe antibiotics for an ear infection, make sure you finish the entire dosage — even if you feel better. Your infection could come back and will be more resistant to treatments.

This will ensure you will make a full recovery a quick as possible.

If you or a family member has an earache, don’t panic. We’ve got you covered. Come to see us so we can help you get feeling better. You can either call to make an appointment or just walk-in. We’re here whenever you need us.

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