You wake up in the morning and feel pressure and pain in your ear that wasn’t there the night before.
Your kid comes home from school rubbing their ear and complaining that it hurts.
In both scenarios, your first thought is that you or your child has an ear infection, but you don’t know for sure, and you don’t want to waste your time and money on an unnecessary trip to the doctor.
What you really want to know is: Do you always need treatment for an ear infection?
Here at Physicians Medical Primary Care, we treat ear infections constantly. Here’s our advice on whether or not you need to see the doctor for your ear infection.
What is an ear infection?
Bacteria or viruses cause a middle ear infection within the ear. The bacteria often come from your sinus, eyes, or mouth, which are connected to your ears. You start to notice the problem when fluid and inflammation build up in the air-filled space behind the eardrum.
Outer ear infections can also begin as a rash on the outside of the ear and then spread to the ear canal.
Symptoms of an ear infection include pain in the ear, especially when you’re lying down, pulling on your ear, difficulty sleeping, fever, and headache.
Children are more likely than adults to get an ear infection, but adults sometimes have them.
When should ear infections be treated?
To answer your big question from earlier, no, not all ear infections will need to be treated. Many clear up on their own within the first couple of days, and if your ear infection is viral, antibiotics won’t help it heal any faster.
Here’s a good general rule of thumb on when to seek treatment for ear infections:
- If your symptoms last longer than 2-3 days
- If your ear infection causes a fever
- If you see discharge coming out of your ear
How are ear infections treated?
The most common treatment for ear infections is antibiotics. Once they clear out the bacteria, your infection will clear up as well, and your pain will disappear.
Other potential treatments include over-the-counter medicines like ibuprofen to relieve pain and inflammation or decongestants to clear mucus from your ear canals. Your doctor may also give you anesthetic ear drops for pain relief, or you could try home remedies such as a warm compress to relieve the pressure in your ears.
If you suspect you have an ear infection and need treatment, the Physicians Medical Primary Care team is here to help. You can call any of our three San Jose-area locations or use our online schedulers to book your own appointment at any of our offices.