ear infection treatment
Ear infections are common and symptoms can include:
- Earache or pain
- Fever (often the only symptom in young children or babies)
- Discharge (fluid coming from the ear)
- Deafness or blocked ears
- Noises in the ear (tinnitus)
Infections can affect the outer, middle or inner parts of your ear and can be caused by viruses, bacteria or fungus or yeasts.
Outer ear infections
The most common outer ear infection is called otitis externa, or swimmer’s ear.
Who gets otitis externa?
Risk factors for getting this type of infection include injury to the ear canal (e.g. from cotton buds), skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis, immune compromise (e.g. diabetes mellitus) and regular swimming.
Otitis externa causes itchy, painful ears that produce smelly green or yellow discharge.
How is otitis externa treated?
Treatment includes antibiotic and steroid drops, pain relief and keeping the ear completely dry, even in the shower! Often, to allow the antibiotic drops to work, the ear canal needs to cleaned of debris. This is often done using microsuction. Occasionally, if the ear canal is very swollen, a small wick is inserted into the ear canal to help draw the antibiotic drops into the ear. Sometimes, if otitis externa becomes a recurrent problem, it is important to take an ear swab to find out the type of infection.
Other outer ear infections include infections of the external part of the ear (pinna cellulitis or chondritis) and ear canal abscess (furunculosis).
At Auris Ear Care, our specialist ear doctors can diagnose and treat otitis externa in the comfort and safety of your own home using our mobile service or at our convenient Harley Street clinic.
What will my ear infection appointment involve?
Your Auris clinician will listen to your concerns and ask you questions about your symptoms. We will note down your medical history and ask about any allergies you may have. After taking consent, our ear expert will examine your ears using a small device with a light (an otoscope). This is painless, quick and will allow our clinician to make a diagnosis.
If you have an outer ear infection, you will be offered microsuction as the first part of your ear infection treatment. This involves gentle cleaning of the ear under microscopic vision using fine suction to clear away any debris or infection from the ear canal. If the ear canal is very blocked, sometimes we need to insert a wick into the ear. This is a small piece of sponge that draws the antibiotic drops into the ear. It will need to be removed after two to three days, and our Auris clinician will arrange a follow-up appointment for you. Once your appointment is over, we will be able to offer you a private prescription so that you can collect your antbiotics from your local pharmacy.
How can I reduce the chance of getting otitis externa/swimmer’s ear?
The best things you can do to prevent otitis externa are:
- Keep your ears dry, especially in the bath or shower
- Top tip! If you suffer from recurrent infections, cover the outer part of your ear in cotton wool covered in Vaseline, to provide a water tight seal when you wash
- Throw out your cotton buds!
- Top tip! Never put sharp objects or cotton buds into your ear canal. This can cause tiny cuts in the ear canal that allow infections to start
- Seek medical advice early from Auris Ear Care or your GP if you have any of the symptoms above, as you may require ear infection treatment.
Middle ear infections
Middle ear infections, or acute otitis media are common, especially amongst children and babies. About 80% of children will have had a middle ear infection by 3 years old. They are a type of upper respiratory tract infection and can happen after a sore throat or cold.
These infections cause pain, fever and sometimes discharge if the eardrum bursts, releasing pus into the ear canal. Often the pain and symptoms get better after this, and usually the ear drum will heal normally. Longer term problems can occur when there is a hole in the ear drum (a “perforation”), or fluid (“glue”) that collects behind the eardrum. These problems often require a referral to a hospital ENT specialist.
Most acute middle ear infections settle without any ear infection treatment, such as antibiotics. Rarely, complications can occur where the infection spreads to the bone behind the ear, causing a condition called mastoiditis. This is a medical emergency and any patient with mastoiditis should be seen and assessed in an Accident & Emergency Department.
Inner ear infections
Inner ear infections can cause hearing loss and spinning dizziness (vertigo). The most common type of inner ear infection is called labyrinthitis and is usually caused by viruses. Treatment for labyrinthitis can include anti-sickness medications and fluids.
I think I have an ear infection – what do I do?
If you think you may need ear infection treatment, call us now on 0203 151 0708, or make an appointment enquiry here to see one of our doctors.