In and Out Express Care Blog

What to Do About Ear Infections

By Dana MacCorquodale | Published Thursday, September 13, 2018

Ear infections are a common problem seen in urgent care clinics. But how do you know if it warrants medical attention or if it can be treated at home?

Two Types of Ear Infections

There are two common types of ear infections. The first is often called swimmer’s ear. It is caused by water becoming trapped in the ear canal. It can occur after swimming in a pool or even soaking in a bathtub.

Swimmer's Ear

Swimmer’s Ear is an irritation or infection of the skin that lines the ear canal. If water gets trapped in the ear canal, the lining becomes wet and promotes the growth of bacteria inside the ear canal.

Symptoms of swimmer’s ear are as follows:

  • itching in the ear
  • pain that increases when you pull or tug the ear
  • clear fluid leaking from the ear
  • feeling that your ear is “plugged up”
  • hearing may be diminished
  • swelling and redness of the outer ear

Luckily, most cases of swimmer’s ear can be treated at home. There are drops made especially for swimmer's ear. They contain alcohol which helps dry the ear canal. Please do not use ear drops if your child has tubes in his/her ear or a possible ruptured ear drum.

To prevent swimmer’s ear, use ear plugs when swimming. Also ensure that your ears are dried out completely after being submerged. You can do this by simply tilting your head to each side until the water runs out. A hair dryer set on low can also be used to assist in drying out the ear’s delicate tissues. Hold it 8-10 inches away from the ear and let the heat do its work.

Middle Ear Infections

Another type of ear infection is a middle ear infection. The pain from this is caused by the ear cavity becoming swollen. It can be caused by a blocked Eustachian tube and often accompanies the common cold. The swelling causes a buildup of fluid and promotes bacteria and viruses to grow. The warm, moist ear canal is the perfect breeding ground for these often painful ear infections.

Symptoms of a middle ear infection include but are not limited to the following:

  • difficulty sleeping
  • decreased hearing
  • vertigo or loss of balance
  • pain in the ear or ears
  • fever (about 50% of children with an ear infection will have a fever)
  • crankiness
  • tugging of the ears in small children

Middle ear infections is a condition that needs to be seen by a physician. Pain medication (Tylenol), antibiotics, and analgesic ear drops may be given to for the infection. 

If you believe you or your child has an ear infection, please seek medical attention. In and Out Express Care’s about you!