/ Ear Infection
Antibiotics for Ear Infection

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Antibiotics for Ear Infection

When you feel an intense ear pain, or notice your toddler tugging at their ear, it is quite likely to be an ear infection. You will want your ear pain to get better as soon as possible, but treatment with antibiotics for ear infections is only necessary if the ear infection is bacterial.

It's important to talk to a doctor if ear pain does not subside after a day or two. The doctor will be able diagnose the cause of your ear infection and give you the proper treatment plan. If the cause of your ear infection is bacterial, antibiotics will be prescribed.

This article will go over the best antibiotics for ear infections, and when they should prescribed. It will also cover the differences between ear infections in children and ear infections in adults, as well as whether or not ear infections are contagious, and how to prevent them being passed on to other people.

Antibiotics for Ear Infection

Most ear infections are the result of a virus, such as the virus that causes the flu or the common cold. These infections usually only last a day or two and clear up on their own. Antibiotics should not be prescribed for a viral ear infection.

However, if you've had ear pain for more than two days and it's not going away, or it's getting worse, your infection is more likely to be bacterial and it's time to talk to a doctor about getting an antibiotic prescription.

Antibiotic ear drops are commonly prescribed for bacterial ear infections.

Common ear drop prescriptions are:

Use these antibiotic drops as directed by your doctor and you should feel relief within two to three days. Never put ear drops in the eyes.

Oral antibiotics may also be prescribed for ear infection.

Possible oral antibiotics for ear infection include:

You can get these antibiotics prescribed online by making an appointment here
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Ear Infection in Children

Middle ear infections, known as acute otitis media (AOM), are much more common in children than adults.

This is because the Eustachian tubes, are more likely to get blocked in children. The Eustachian tubes are narrow tubes that run from each ear to the back of the throat and drain the ears. Children's Eustachian tubes are narrower and more horizontal than in adults, which makes it harder for them to drain properly.

When the Eustachian tubes can’t drain properly, they tend to get clogged and are more likely to get infected by either a bacteria or a virus.

Below is an image from Medlineplus.gov that illustrates the differences between children’s and adult’s ear anatomy, specifically the angle of the Eustachian tubes, and helps to explain why children get more ear infections than adults.

antibiotics-for-ear-infection

Symptoms of ear Infections in children Include:

  • Ear pain, especially while lying down
  • Tugging at the ear
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Crying or acting more irritable than usual
  • Trouble hearing or responding to sounds
  • Loss of balance
  • Fever higher than 100°F
  • Fluid draining from the ear
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
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Ear Infection in Adults

While ear infections are more common in children, they can occur in adults and tend to be more severe or a sign of something more serious.

Symptoms of Ear Infections in Adults Include:

  • Ear pain
  • Fluid draining from the ear
  • Hearing loss
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • A sense of fullness in the ear
  • Red or swollen ear

If you're an adult and you've had ear pain for more than two days, seek medical attention. The doctor can prescribe you antibiotics if you have a bacterial infection, or diagnose a more serious issue you may have, and start you on a treatment plan.

Are Ear Infections Contagious?

If you think you have an ear infection, you're probably wondering: Are ear infections contagious?

The answer is probably not. But depending on where the ear infection is, they may be.

There are three parts of the ear:

  • The outer ear
  • The middle ear
  • The inner ear

antibiotics-for-ear-infection

Infections can occur in each part of the ear, and symptoms and contagion will vary depending on where they are.

Are ear infections contagious if they are in the outer ear?
There are a number of factors that can result in an outer ear infection, and fortunately none of them are contagious. Outer ear infections are often caused by bacteria in water and are also known as swimmers ear. These bacteria cannot spread from person to person.

Are ear infections contagious if they are in the middle ear?
Not directly, however, some triggers of middle ear infections are contagious, such as the common cold, so proper hygiene such as hand washing can help prevent infections of the middle ear.

Ear infections in the middle ear often result from clogging of the Eustachian tubes, which does not directly transfer from one person to another. However, the germ that caused the clogging in the first place may be contagious.

Are ear infections contagious in the inner ear?
No, but similar to middle ear infections, the pathogens that can lead to an ear infection are contagious. Viruses are the most common causes of ear infections in the inner ear, although bacteria can be what causes an ear infection if a bacterial infection in the middle ear spreads to the inner ear.

So while the ear infection cannot be spread directly the virus or bacteria that led to the ear infection can be transferred, so practice proper hygiene.

Treatments for Ear Infections if Antibiotics Aren't Right For You

For those stuck waiting for a viral infection to pass, over the counter (OTC) pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help reduce the pain.

While these won't directly treat your infection they will lessen the symptoms and hopefully bring you some comfort while you recover.

If your infection does not feel better in a couple days, seek medical attention.

Preventing Ear Infections

If you or your child are prone to ear infections, the following things may help prevent future recurrences of ear infections:

  • Keep the ears clean and dry
  • Avoid smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Manage any allergies you have
  • Wash your hands and take other precautions to avoid getting sick

Think you or your child may be suffering from an ear infection? Book an appointment with a PlushCare physician today to receive a diagnosis and, if appropriate, get antibiotics for ear infection online.

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Dr. Heidi Lightfoot

Dr. Heidi Lightfoot

Medically reviewed by Dr. Heidi Lightfoot, MD who is an anesthesiologist in Hampshire, United Kingdom. Alongside her clinical work, she has an interest in medical writing and clinical research.

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