What you need to know about ear infections

December 31, 2021

Ear pain can be a red flag that you might have an ear infection. Read on to learn more about ear infections and how Pulse on Call can help.


Did you know?

  • Children between the ages of 6 months and 2 years are more likely to get ear infections because of the size and shape of the tubes that connect their ears to the back of the throat and their still developing immune systems.
  • Children in daycare are more likely to get ear infections than children who stay at home because they are generally exposed to more infections.
  • Babies who drink from a bottle are more likely than breastfed babies to get ear infections
  • Ear infections are most common during the fall and winter
  • Poor air quality can increase the risk of ear infections

What causes an ear infection?

An ear infection is caused by a virus or bacteria. They can occur in the middle ear (the part just behind your ear drum), outer ear, or inner ear. Ear infections are often the result of another illness, like a cold or flu. The illness can cause swelling of the nasal passages, throat, and tubes that lead to the ear.

Ear infections occur most commonly in young children and about 80% of children develop an ear infection at some point.

Some people suffer from regular ear infections, which are known as chronic ear infections. These infections either don’t clear up or recur many times and can cause damage to the ear.

How do I know if I have an ear infection?

Common symptoms of an ear infection can differ between children and adults.

In children, signs and symptoms include:

  • Ear pain
  • Pulling at ear
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Crying/fussiness
  • Trouble hearing
  • Loss of balance
  • Fever above 100°F or 38°C
  • Fluid draining from ear
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite

In adults, signs and symptoms include:

  • Ear pain
  • Fluid draining from ear
  • Trouble hearing

How do you treat an ear infection?

Some ear infections can clear up without any interventions, but sometimes treatment is necessary.

Mild ear infections may be treated at home by:

  • Applying a warm cloth to the ear
  • Taking over-the-counter ibuprofen or acetaminophen
  • Using over-the-counter ear drops to relieve pain
  • Taking over-the-counter decongestants
  • Avoiding sleeping on the affected ear

Prescription treatments are also available and usually include antibiotics to treat bacterial infections.

When should I see a doctor?

A doctor can help to properly diagnose and treat an ear infection. Talk to your doctor if:

  • Symptoms last for more than a day
  • Symptoms are in children less than 6 months of age
  • Pain is severe
  • Your infant or toddler is irritable or sleepless after a cold
  • There is fluid, pus, or blood coming from the ear

If possible, make sure you are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and annually vaccinated against the flu. Learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine here.

You can also use some precautions to help reduce your risk of infection from the viruses that can make you sick. This includes:

  • Avoiding close contact with anyone outside your household
  • Wearing a face mask in indoor public spaces or crowded outdoor spaces
  • Washing your hands often with soap and water, or using an alcohol-based sanitizer
  • Avoiding crowded indoor spaces
  • Covering your mouth and nose with your elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Clean and disinfect areas that are touched often like doorknobs and light switches

Can someone at Pulse On Call help me?

Of course! Schedule an online doctors appointment and one of our team members will be happy to help. Our licensed Canadian physicians can help diagnose and can also provide prescriptions online.

If additional testing is required, we can still help! Our doctors can help find a nearby facility to help carry out any required testing or refer you to a local specialist.

The best part? You can do it from the comfort of your own home and it’s free if you have OHIP coverage!

*Please Note:

Please note that all information within this posting is up-to-date at the time of publication.