Middle Ear Infection

You or your child has developed an infection in the air chamber behind the eardrum, known as the "middle ear." This type of earache is caused by a blockage of the narrow passageway going from the throat to this small air space, thus trapping bacteria or a virus. It commonly is the result of congestion and mucous from a cold or food allergies.

The infection causes fluid or pus to build up in this space causing pain and decreased hearing. Generally, the faster the infection starts, the more painful it feels. Typically infants with ear infections are fussy and may pull at their ears. Fever may be present, but it is more likely due to the underlying viral illness than the ear infection itself.

Sometimes the eardrum breaks and fluid or blood comes out of the ear. This is usually not a serious problem, but it does make a follow-up ear exam very important.

Home Care for Middle Ear Infection

  • If you have been prescribed medication, take it as directed. You or your child should feel better in 48 to 72 hours, but continue the medication until it is all gone. DO NOT let anyone else use your medication. Decongestants (such as Sudafed or Dimetapp) are sometimes advised, especially after the acute infection is subsiding.

  • Fever and pain symptoms can usually be controlled with acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Ask us if you are not sure of the correct dosing schedule. Ear drops do not usually help a middle ear infection.

  • If you or your child has three or more ear infections per year, or if the eardrum has shown signs of rupture (see above), we recommend a follow-up visit with your primary care physician in 2-4 weeks. Sometimes fluid in the middle ear takes weeks to go away after the infection is properly treated. This can affect hearing. (The urgent care staff may also advise you to have further evaluation based on other conditions or findings at the time of your exam).

  • If you have further questions regarding your care, or if you are not better in 2-3 days, call your personal physician. If you do not have one, we would be glad to assist you in finding one.


Call or Return If Any of the Following Occur:

  • Persistent fussiness or irritability, or increasing pain

  • Fever greater than 102° F. two days in a row

  • Vomiting and unable to keep down medication

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