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Ear Infection

An ear infection may start with a cold and affect the middle ear (otitis media). It can hurt a lot. Most ear infections clear up on their own in a couple of days. Most often you will not need antibiotics. This is because many ear infections are caused by a virus. Antibiotics don't work against a virus. Regular doses of pain medicines are the best way to reduce your fever and help you feel better. Ear infections mostly affect children, symptoms may include earaches and thick, yellow fluid coming from the ears however, adults are just as susceptible.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments and call your Benchmark Urgent & Family Care if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

What Causes an Ear Infection?

The middle ear is a small space behind the ear drum that is supposed to be well ventilated by air that normally passes up from behind the nose, through the Eustachian tube, keeping the middle ear clean and dry. When there is not enough fresh air ventilating the middle ear, such as when the Eustachian tube is clogged or blocked, the area becomes damp, stagnant, and warm, a perfect breeding ground for germs.

The symptoms of an ear infection in adults are:

  • Earache (either a sharp, sudden pain or a dull, continuous pain)
  • A sharp stabbing pain with immediate warm drainage from the ear canal
  • A feeling of fullness in the ear
  • Nausea
  • Muffled hearing
  • Ear drainage

In children, the symptoms are:

  • Tugging at the ear
  • Poor sleep
  • Fever
  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Ear drainage
  • Diminished appetite
  • Crying at night when lying down

What Is My Doctor Looking For?

Your doctor will ask you about any symptoms you’ve had. Be sure to come to the office with any notes you might need and questions on your mind.

A Benchmark Urgent & Family Care clinician will look at the eardrum with an instrument called an otoscope for signs of infection.

The clinician may also check for blockage or filling of the middle ear using a different kind of otoscope that blows a little air at the eardrum. This air should cause it to move back and forth a bit. If fluid is there, it will not move as much.

They might also look for signs of infection with another instrument. It’s called a tympanometer, and it uses sound and air pressure to check for fluid in the middle ear.



Often, a virus causes an ear infection, in which case antibiotics won’t help. If, based on the history, your doctor suspects that bacteria may have caused the infection, she will prescribe an antibiotic.

You may also talk to your clinician about things you can do at home.


Pain Relief

If a virus is causing the infection and you have to wait for it to get better, you don’t need to live with the pain.

Your doctor may recommend a pain reliever, typically acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), which also helps reduce a fever.

Pain can also be reduced by using low heat from a heating pad. Be very careful using a heating pad with children.



If your doctor decides to go with antibiotics, follow all the instructions. Take all of the doses even if you or your child are feeling better. Call your doctor or pharmacist if you skip a dose or feel sick from the medicine.

If you don’t take the whole course, your infection could come back and become resistant to more treatments.