An ear infection can be due to viruses or bacteria, which affect the area behind your eardrum called the middle ear. You may experience severe pain due to inflammation and fluid buildup. These infections can be acute or chronic. Acute ear infections last for a short time but can be quite painful. Chronic ear infections may not be that painful but they do not clear up easily and recur many times as well.
If left untreated, chronic ear infections may lead to permanent damage to the inner and middle ear. Unfortunately, many people are not sure if they have developed an infection and often ask, "Do I have an ear infection?" Keep reading to learn how to tell if you have developed an infection.
Am I Suffering from an Ear Infection?
In order to answer the question, "Do I have an ear infection?" it is important to understand the symptoms first:
- A sharp and sudden earache, the most common symptom
- Warm drainage from the ear canal with a sharp stabbing pain
- Ear drainage
- A feeling of fullness in the ear
Children may have symptoms like:
- Poor sleep
- Tugging at the ear
- Ear drainage
- Crying at night
- Diminished appetite
Difference Between Earache Due to a Cold and an Ear Infection
You may experience earache due to cold. That is the reason why it is quite common to ask, "Do I have an ear infection or not?" You experience earache due to cold because the fluid in your ear puts pressure on the eardrum, which makes it to throb and bulge. If it is due to a cold, you may notice other symptoms such as fever, difficulty sleeping, and yellow/green mucus in the nose. And this type of pain will go away by itself.
It is important to understand that even when your earache is due to a cold virus, it can turn into an infection. It is possible to develop a secondary infection of the middle ear, which can happen suddenly and be extremely painful at the beginning. The pain you experience is due to increased pressure on the sensory nerve endings in the eardrum. You usually experience some relief after the eardrum stretches a little. See your doctor immediately to confirm if you have an ear infection or your earache is due to a cold.
What If an Ear Infection Is Left Untreated?
Do I have an ear infection? It is a common question, and people also ask about any complications that may arrive if they do not seek any medical advice after developing an infection. You need to understand that a middle ear infection can turn into an inner ear infection and may even result in hearing loss. Other complications involve scarring of the eardrum, facial paralysis, meningitis, speech development problems in children, and infection of the skull behind the ear. So do seek medical help if your ear aches.
What Diagnosis for Ear Infection Is Available?
Your doctor will use an instrument called an otoscope to examine your inner ear. The instrument comes with a magnifying lens and light. The instrument helps determine if there is any redness or pus-like fluid in your ear. It also helps confirm if there is a perforation in the eardrum.
In some cases, your doctor may choose to take a sample of the fluid for further testing. The tests help determine if there are any antibiotic resistant bacteria in the ear. Your healthcare provider may also ask a CT scan to see if the infection has spread to other parts of your head as well. A hearing test may also help determine a better treatment option, especially when you have chronic ear infections.
How to Deal With Ear Infection
You may take the following steps to treat a mild ear infection.
- Take a warm cloth and apply it to your affected ear for pain relief.
- Try a decongestant like pseudoephedrine to relieve pain.
- Take OTC painkillers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Be sure to take drugs as mentioned on the label. You should never give aspiring to children because it increases the risk of Reye's syndrome. Teenagers recovering from flu-like symptoms or chickenpox should also avoid taking aspirin.
- Make use of eardrops to relieve pain. If you have developed chronic suppurative otitis media, which leads to perforation of the eardrum, you will have to take antibiotics in the form of drops. Talk to your doctor to learn how to remove fluids through the ear canal before using drops.
- You may consider surgery as an option if the typical medical treatments fail to produce desired results. The procedure involves placing tubes in your ear to drain out fluid. Your doctor may also consider removing the adenoids surgically if they are enlarged.
Note:You should see your doctor if your symptoms do not improve with home remedies. It is sometimes important to take antibiotics to deal with a bacterial infection. Be sure to complete your course of antibiotics and do not stop even if you start to feel better after a few days. Keep in mind that it is important to monitor the condition of your child if they have chronic ear infections. Ask your doctor about how often you should see them.
How to Prevent Ear Infection from Happening
To avoid asking, "Do I have an ear infection?" you should take steps to prevent ear infections from developing in the first place. For instance:
- Be sure to wash your hands often
- Avoid overly crowded areas
- Be sure to avoid secondhand smoke
- Forgo pacifiers with small children and infants