Can an Ear Infection Go Away on Its Own?

doctor examining a patient's earIt’s true—an ear infection can go away on its own in some cases. The term “ear infection” typically refers to acute otitis media, or an infection that impacts the middle ear directly behind the eardrum. The outside of the ear (from the opening of the ear to the eardrum) may also become infected, as can the inner ear, although these conditions are less common.

Ear infections are caused by viruses or bacteria. They can affect anyone, although children are more likely to develop ear infections than adults. Because some ear infections can go away on their own, treatment usually begins with self-care measures—such as over-the-counter ear drops and pain relievers—to ease symptoms.

What Are the Signs of an Ear Infection?

The signs of an ear infection can vary according to its location in the ear. Generally speaking, ear infection symptoms in adults and older children may include:

  • Ear pain
  • Changes in hearing
  • A feeling of plugged ears
  • Ear drainage
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Ear swelling or tenderness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting

In younger children, common signs of an ear infection can include:

  • Ear pain that may worsen when lying down
  • Increased fussiness or irritability
  • Ear drainage
  • Reduced balance
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Pulling or tugging at one ear
  • Irresponsiveness to sounds
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite

When to Seek Medical Care

So, how do you know when it’s time to seek professional treatment for an ear infection? Every case is different, but you should always consult with a medical professional if:

  • Your ear pain is severe in nature
  • Your symptoms persist for more than three days
  • You develop new symptoms, such as a fever or dizziness
  • Your symptoms include ear discharge, which may contain blood, pus or clear fluid

If your child develops an ear infection, seek medical care if:

  • Ear pain is severe in nature
  • Symptoms last longer than 24 hours
  • Any symptoms are present in a baby younger than 6 months old
  • Symptoms include ear discharge

Family Medicine at Tufts Medical Center Community Care

Ear infection treatment is one of our many fortes at Tufts Medical Center Community Care—a multispecialty medical group serving families throughout north suburban Boston. Our team includes family medicine physicians who specialize in treating both children and adults, providing local families a convenient source for top-quality, comprehensive medical care.

Here’s what you can expect as a patient at Tufts Medical Center Community Care:

  • Multiple easily accessible locations with ample free parking
  • Better-than-average appointment availability, including limited weekend and evening appointments
  • A seamless, all-in-one care experience from a multidisciplinary team of clinicians
  • Multiple safety-enhancing measures as part of our Safe With Us pledge

For ear infection treatment, check-ups and much more, turn to the family medicine physicians at Tufts Medical Center Community Care. Our team is ready to help! Contact us today to schedule a visit or request an appointment online. We accept most major health insurance plans, including Tricare, Medicare and Medicaid.

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