Ear Infection Symptoms and Treatment
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Ear Infection Symptoms and Treatment

Learn how to identify the signs of an ear infection and how to treat it.

Having an ear infection doesn't take long to manifest itself. The infection itself can be caused by a virus or bacteria that affects the respiratory system, or as part of a sinus infection, or head cold. If there is ever any fluid (or water) in the ears that is not able to properly drain - due to the amount or presence of excess ear wax - that fluid will allow bacteria to grow and cause infection. Once you have an infection, you will be able to tell within hours. Symptoms include:

vertigo, inability to balance when standing

fevers of 101 degrees Fahrenheit or higher

headaches and pain in the affected ear(s)

runny nose or cough

discharge from ear(s)


At the onset of an ear infection, nasal congestion and pain in the ear(s) or head might be your only symptoms. And since your ears control the equilibrium in your body, you'll soon develop dizziness upon sitting, standing, or walking. Additionally, the ear(s) might feel sensitive to sound or touch, feel plugged up, or feel wet. If still left untreated, fevers of 101 degrees Fahrenheit will result continuously until either the ear drum(s) burst or you are in excruciating pain. This can be anywhere from overnight to two days after developing infection.

Vomiting is also not uncommon, as a result to all of the above symptoms described. Ear infections in babies and young children are understandably harder to diagnose because they are unable to tell you how they're feeling. And when they develop such infections, it can be due to having smaller or narrower ear canals that do not have the ability to drain fluid on their own. That is why many pediatricians refer the young to ENTs after multiple ear infections, where ear tubes might be necessary to help restore hearing and prevent (if possible) further ear infections. So watch for your child to tug at the ear(s), be generally fussy/cranky, and have nasal discharge. Once a fever sets in, you'll know without a doubt that an infection is the culprit.

When you seek medical attention, the doctor will use an otoscope to examine the ears. If infection is found, oral antibiotics will be prescribed. If the ear(s) remains infected longer than 1-2 weeks, further evaluations or more stronger medication may be necessary. So how do you prevent ear infections in the first place? It is possible to minimize or eliminate ear infections through the use of antihistamines or decongestants when you are sick, and regularly cleaning your ears of excess ear wax.

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Comments (21)

This is very unique article..thanks. very helpful

Do you think you can diagonise ear infection by loking at the ear drums? Please read about Myths we were made to beleive, its not fair to tell people you can. I have looked at thousands of years since thirty years and even today I cannot be sure when I can confiedently say you have ear infection that needs antibiotic. Most pain in ears are due to impacted wax or blocked tube behind the ear drum. Only thing you need to know is taking antibiotic is less likely to have an inpact on the out come. Check out what the doctors mus do to examine your ear properly. http://www.medifix.org/safec/pages/symptoms.html

Granted, I am not a medical professional, and I do realize that in our society people have been overmedicated for quite some time now to where there are certain infections and bacteria that do not respond to medication. However, as as parent of a child who had chronic ear infections, I believe that the many doctor visits and everything we went through to get her better has enabled me to write on this topic without providing false information. Now does that mean the symptoms I described ALWAYS indicate an infection? No. Are doctors ALWAYS able to diagnose ear infections? No. I personally have been overlooked in being diagnosed with things in the past, and I know it had no bearing on the doctor being shoddy. I also realize that ear wax can cause the same kind of pain as ear infections, since I have experienced that as well. As with anything, I believe it is wise to use one's discretion in reading information about medical issues on the Internet and use best judgment.

Thank you Natasha, please do not get me wrong, I think you have published a good article. I am not criticising you but correcting some facts. We cannot generalise symptoms and signs of illness and so the word "Always" must not be used by doctors because there will be exceptions. It is hard for doctors not to prescribe antibiotics when you consult because it is difficult to differentiate bacterial from viral or mechanical problem resulting in ear pain.

Very true. Also good to note is that holistic approaches to treating problems can be just as controversial as antibiotics. And that research is always coming up with new information on how to treat illnesses differently than generations before. So who knows what the new face of medicine will be in a few years!

I've had about 5 ear operations due to the necessity to have tubes in my ears when I was younger. I still have issues now, however no medication helps, nor does anything homeopathic. I'm one in the few I guess.

Patrick Cuddihy

I suffer from an ear infection that has had prescribed Quadriderm as a remedy; it does not help. My symptoms are dermatitis like and can get itchy and flaky. any recommendations?


I have read and heard from many chiropractors that they are able to clear up many ear infections in children with only a few treatments. The cost to test this out is far less and definitely less invasive than the insertion of tubes in the ears. Generally, I believe the healing is faster as well. Why not try a chiropractor first and then if the problem doesn't go away, go to the pediatrician? In fact, I have read that the recovery time compared between medical treatment, chiropractic treatment and doing nothing at all is about the same.

Patrick - I have no idea what can help your ear infection given your symptoms! If your ear was dry without having an infection, I would have recommended vitamin e applied to the inside of your ear canal. But I don't know what would cause your symptoms while on a medication...unless it's from the medication? I hope you were able to get that resolved!

Lorena - that is why I love the chiropractor (you can read my factoid on that)! Mine is so useful for a multitude of ailments! I hadn't thought of that for ear infections though. Very interesting.

Great article. I used to suffer badly with ear infections. My ear would swell shut and I was in so much pain. The doctor would give me antibiotics and there was no sense using the drops until the swelling went down... but knock on wood, I haven't had an ear infection in years.. I think it is because I stopped smoking. It's been about that long (5 years) since I have had a bad ear infection and ear pain.

Good information.

Patrick Cuddihy

You are all wonderful for the help you offer. My problem is an infection on the skin in the outer canal entrance and is ongoing. My son has had ear infections of the kind mentioned and it clears with antibiotics; mine needs topical remedy but the ones I have had prescribed are temporary relief only.

amanda millard

i went to the doc conplaining of ear pain but when he looked he said it was all clear.But a few days later i had severe swelling around the ear and my whole ear is now closed off because it was servere iam now at he hospital and have been for 2 days.i have just started having pain in the other ear and again its clear ????

I am not a doctor but I can share with you what my grandmother use to do for us when we were children and had an earache. She always had a small bottle of sweet oil (I believe it is another term for olive oil) She would warm up the oil until it was about the same temperature mothers would warm up baby bottles to. The old way to test and see if it was to warm was to drop a few drops of the milk on your wrist if it was warm to the inside of your wrist it was warm enough for the baby, same was true with my grandmothers treatment of sweet oil. You don't want it to be to hot just warm. After warming the sweet oil she would drop a few drops of the oil into the ear that was affected, then put a cotton ball in our ear. Sometimes the air or wind will irritate those who are more susceptible to ear infections this is one of the reasons for the use of the cotton ball, the other was to keep the oil in the ear from escaping. When my children suffered from earaches I would always use my grandmother's remedy and it always helped them. I have a grandson who use to have very bad earaches he would cry himself to sleep they would be so bad. His pediatrician put tubes in his ear numerous of times and it never helped him. I think sometimes these new remedies are just costly and useless attempts to do nothing to alleviate the problems. In fact when I visited my daughter for a while and her son had one of these bad earaches I tried my grandmother's remedy with him and it helped him more that those ear tubes the doctor had been stuffing in his ears for years! If you suffer from a lot of earaches sometimes simple things like wearing a hat that covers your ears to help block the wind from irritating your ears. Believe it or not the wind can affect those who are susceptible to earaches more than others. The warm oil also helps break up an excess of earwax build up as well, if this is the cause. People frown on home remedies a lot and are willing to pay a doctor hundreds of dollars for new treatments that are not helping them, when the doctor is not helping it's time to look outside that box. Home remedies are my first choice doctors are my last, but that is my choice I can not make choices for others.

Warm oil does work in many people. For some reason, it doesn't for me :-( I don't know why, but it has only made me have worse problems with wax build up. Oh well, to each his own. And as for tubes, they are definitely not the cure-all, but in the people whom they do help, they are lifesavers!

ear pain symptoms

Ear pain symptoms are most common among the nose-running children.

Thanks for sharing the valuable information.


i am not sure if i have an ear infection but it feels like something is in my ear moving also feel like it was hair too...i have cleaned my ear using the ear wax removal stuff and used the syringe to clean it out..still feels like and hurts alil...soo not sure if it is an ear infection..i guess i will make an appt with my dr to see what it is....

When in doubt, check with your doctor!!!

Dr Sri

Most doctor do not use the pump to see if the tympanic membrane is tense. They say the ear is red and people seem to beleive this. No wonder the bugs are getting harder to treat.

Please watch this video and think...

There's no substitute for olive oil, it is very versatile.