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Ear infection

An ear infection (sometimes called acute otitis media) is an infection of the middle ear. Children are more likely than adults to get ear infections.

Treatment may begin with managing pain and monitoring the problem. Sometimes, antibiotics are used to clear the infection. Some people are prone to having multiple ear infections. This can cause hearing problems and other serious complications.

Symptoms

The onset of signs and symptoms of ear infection is usually rapid.

Children

Signs and symptoms common in children include:

  • Ear pain, especially when lying down
  • Tugging or pulling at an ear
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Crying more than usual
  • Fussiness
  • Trouble hearing or responding to sounds
  • Loss of balance
  • Fever of 100 F (38 C) or higher
  • Drainage of fluid from the ear
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite

Adults

Common signs and symptoms in adults include:

  • Ear pain
  • Drainage of fluid from the ear
  • Trouble hearing

When to see a doctor

Signs and symptoms of an ear infection can indicate several conditions. It’s important to get an accurate diagnosis and prompt treatment. Have a consultation if:

  • Symptoms last for more than a day
  • Symptoms are present in a child less than 6 months of age
  • Ear pain is severe
  • Your infant or toddler is sleepless or irritable after a cold or other upper respiratory infection
  • You observe a discharge of fluid, pus or bloody fluid from the ear
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