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Learning more about ear infections | Anderson Walk-in Medical Clinic

Learning More About Ear Infections

Ear infections, also known as middle ear infections or acute otitis media, are extremely painful and uncomfortable. Ear infections can happen to anyone at any age, but they’re more common in children than adults. Regardless of who has the ear infection, however, it’s important to get the help you need as quickly as possible to prevent long-term issues and complications. 

Signs and Symptoms

Because of how painful and uncomfortable ear infections are, children and adults alike will have many signs and symptoms. Exactly how bad the symptoms are will vary depending on how bad the infection is and how long it lasts. It’s also possible for ear infection symptoms to come and go randomly and to flare up when you least expect it. When they’re present, however, here are some of the most common ear infection symptoms.

  • Pain or discomfort in the ear
  • Pus coming out of the ear
  • Pain is worse when lying down, which makes sleep difficult
  • More prone to crying and fussiness
  • Fever
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty hearing
  • Partial loss of hearing
  • Excessively rubbing their ears
  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lack of balance

What Causes Ear Infections? 

While the impact of ear infections can vary from person to person, the root cause is almost always a viral or bacterial infection. They can happen as a standalone condition or when the virus or bacteria that causes an upper respiratory infection, cold, or the flu spreads to your ears.

Here’s what happens when the virus or bacteria attacks your ears.

  1. In your head, there’s an Eustachian tube that connects the ear to the throat.
  2. When you have a viral or bacterial infection, the Eustachian tube can get clogged with fluids.
  3. When this happens, the buildup of fluids results in an ear infection.

It’s also possible for an infection in your adenoids to spread to the Eustachian tubes, resulting in an ear infection.

Risk Factors of Ear Infections

While anyone can get an ear infection, a few things increase your chances.

  • Age: Ear infections are most common in children because their Eustachian tubes are more prone to infection.
  • Allergies: Having seasonal allergies puts your children at higher risk.
  • Ethnicity: For reasons unknown, children of Alaska Native heritage, Hispanic, or Native American descent are more prone to ear infections.
  • Being Prone to Colds: The more prone your child is to get the common cold, the more likely they will have an ear infection.

Potential Complications of an Ear Infection

While most ear infections resolve and don’t cause long-term issues, complications are possible if the infection lingers and you don’t receive the necessary treatment.

Here are some of the potential complications of an unresolved or serious ear infection.

  • Hearing Loss: The most common potential complication of ear infections is that they result in permanent hearing loss, rather than just temporary. Permanent or long-term hearing loss often happens when there is damage to the eardrum.
  • The Infection Might Spread: As with other types of infections, the virus or bacteria that cause an ear infection can spread to other parts of the body. This includes nearby organs and bones, including the mastoid, skull, and even the brain.
  • Developmental Delays: In children who have lingering or frequent ear infections that impair hearing, it’s possible for the infection to cause developmental delays.

How Are Ear Infections Diagnosed?

Most medical professionals will have little difficulty diagnosing an ear infection based on physical symptoms and a simple ear exam. During the exam, your medical provider will use an otoscope to look inside the potentially infected ear. An ear infection is almost certain if they notice discoloration, a buildup of fluid, or immobility of the eardrum.

If they diagnose you with an ear infection, your doctor will determine how bad the infection is and recommend a course of treatment.

How an Urgent Care Clinic Can Help

As with the common cold, most ear infections will clear up on their own within several days or a week. However, it’s still a good idea to see your PCP so they can assess the cause and extent of your condition.

Unfortunately, there’s a good chance your PCP won’t be available on such short notice, so going to an urgent care facility is the best way to get the help you need. The doctor or nurse practitioner at the urgent care clinic will evaluate your condition, make a diagnosis, and treat your ear infection accordingly.

Typically, antibiotics are used to kill the bacteria that are causing the infection, and pain medications are used to ease the painful symptoms of the condition. If a more serious treatment plan is needed, your urgent care provider will refer you to a specialist, prescribe stronger medications, and assist you accordingly.

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Anderson, CA
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Anderson Walk-In Medical Clinic - Anderson | Redding | Palo Cedro

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Anderson Walk-In Medical Clinic - Anderson | Redding | Palo Cedro


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Redding, CA
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