Ear infections are no joke. Sharp, throbbing pain and perpetual discomfort disrupt daily life, making it difficult to focus, sleep, and enjoy simple activities.
While it’s true that some ear infections may resolve without medical intervention, dealing with the side effects can be distressing, to say the least. And there are situations in which timely treatment is essential to prevent complications.
Should you visit urgent care for an ear infection or wait it out, and see if it will resolve on its own?
Listen up to what the medical experts have to say below.
What Causes Ear Infections?
Ear infections can occur when bacteria or viruses infiltrate the middle ear, which is the space located behind the eardrum.
The Eustachian tube, responsible for regulating pressure and draining fluid from the middle ear, can become blocked or dysfunctional, creating an ideal environment for infection. In children, these tubes are narrower and more horizontal, making them more susceptible to blockages.
Common culprits behind ear infections include:
- Respiratory infections like colds, allergies, and sinus infections.
- Water trapped in the ear after swimming or bathing.
- Additional factors, including:
- Weakened immune systems.
- Tobacco smoke exposure.
- Bottle feeding while lying down.
Signs of an Ear Infection
There are a few big signs that you’re likely dealing with an infection, and not just an overabundance of ear wax. They include:
- Ear pain: Perhaps the most common symptom of an ear infection is severe pain in one or both ears. The pain can range from mild discomfort to intense throbbing, making it difficult to concentrate or sleep.
- Fluid drainage: If you notice fluid draining from your ear, it may indicate a middle ear infection. The fluid can be clear, yellow, or bloody and is often accompanied by a feeling of fullness in the affected ear.
- Hearing difficulties: Ear infections can cause temporary hearing loss or muffled hearing due to the accumulation of fluid in the middle ear. This symptom is particularly common in children.
- Ear congestion: Feeling a sense of blockage or pressure in the ear, similar to having plugged ears during a flight or while underwater, can also signify an ear infection is afoot.
When to Seek Medical Attention
While some ear infections may improve on their own, the following red flags should prompt you to seek medical attention immediately:
- High fever: If you or your child develops a high fever (over 102°F or 39°C), it is essential to consult a medical professional. Fever can indicate a severe infection that requires immediate treatment.
- Severe and/or increasing pain: If your ear pain becomes excruciating or persists for more than 48 hours, see a doctor. Severe pain can indicate a more severe infection or other underlying conditions.
- Worsening symptoms: If your symptoms worsen or fail to improve after 48-72 hours, contact a medical professional. Increased pain, drainage, hearing loss, or persistent fever should not be ignored.
Remember, only a qualified healthcare professional can accurately diagnose and determine the appropriate treatment for an ear infection. They will assess your symptoms, perform a physical examination, and prescribe the necessary medications to alleviate your discomfort.
Should I Go to Urgent Care for an Ear Infection?
If you are experiencing severe symptoms such as pain and/or high fever, or if you’re unsure about the severity of your ear infection, it is advisable to visit urgent care for prompt evaluation and treatment.
Urgent care centers, like Quality First Urgent Care’s clinics in Clarksville and Burtonsville, are equipped with experienced healthcare providers who can accurately diagnose and provide appropriate care for ear infections.
At Quality First, our team of emergency medical professionals is dedicated to providing quality care and relieving your ear infection symptoms promptly. Prompt diagnosis and treatment can help alleviate pain, prevent complications, and promote a speedy recovery. Contact our team today to schedule an appointment or drop by whenever you are feeling unwell.