Who to turn to
999 - Emergency
Earache and infections within the ear are more common in babies and children and normally follow on from a cold. The infection can affect one or both ears.
A virus causes most ear infections and therefore antibiotics will not help.Read more from the NHS about ear infections here.
Patients will generally have a high temperature and experience pain and discomfort within the affected ear, and will sometimes complain or rub the area. However, sometimes they may just display signs of irritation and not necessarily give more specific indicators that the problem resides within the ear area.
Other symptoms include a loss of appetite, reduction in hearing and a temporary loss of balance.
Most ear infections will clear up within a few days and can be treated at home by giving paracetamol or Ibuprofen.
Read more about treatment of ear infections here.
When to see your GP
It is only if the ear infection lasts longer than a few days or if you see fluid leaving the ear that you may need to see your GP. In severe cases antibiotics may be prescribed.
You will also need to see the GP if you think something may be stuck within the ear.
Often one of the nurses at your GP practice will be able to deal with ear problems, ask the receptionist when you call for an appointment.
The risk of a perforated eardrum
In severe cases, ear infections can cause the eardrum to perforate. This can happen when there is a build up of pus, which puts excessive pressure on the eardrum and causes it to burst.
This will normally heal within a few weeks and should not be cause for concern. However, it must be ensured that the area is kept dry during the healing process.
Read more here.
Things to remember
- Most of the time antibiotics will not work to treat an ear infection.
- Children who live within smoky environments are more likely to get ear infections.
- Do not put anything in the ear unless advised to by your GP or nurse.
Word from our GP
“Most ear infections will clear up without treatment. Just remember to manage the patient’s temperature at home by giving paracetamol.
A warm compress placed on the ear can provide some relief from discomfort.” Dr Nelson
Read our coffee break interview with Dr Sophie Nelson on Ear Infections here.