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Ear infections

Ear infections are infections that affect the outer ear or inside the ear.

The main symptoms of an ear infection include an earache, difficulty hearing and a feeling of pressure or fullness in your ear.

Ear infections often get better in a few days. Painkillers and holding a warm or cold flannel to your ear can help. Sometimes medicines may be needed.

You can help avoid ear infections by not getting water in your ears and not putting cotton wool buds or your fingers in your ears.

Read more on the NHS website.

The main symptoms of an ear infection include an earache, difficulty hearing and a feeling of pressure or fullness in your ear.

Check if it's an ear infection

The symptoms of an ear infection usually start quickly and include:

Young children and babies with an ear infection may also:

Most ear infections clear up within 3 days, although sometimes symptoms can last up to a week.

Read more on the NHS website.

Ear infections often get better in a few days. Painkillers and holding a warm or cold flannel to your ear can help. Sometimes medicines may be needed.

Self-care

To help relieve any pain and discomfort from an ear infection:


Do

  • use painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen (children under 16 should not take aspirin)
  • place a warm or cold flannel on the ear
  • remove any discharge by wiping the ear with cotton wool

Don't

  • do not put anything inside your ear to remove earwax, such as cotton buds or your finger
  • do not let water or shampoo get in your ear
  • do not use decongestants or antihistamines – there's no evidence they help with ear infections

Medical treatments

Your GP may prescribe medicine for your ear infection, depending on what's caused it.

Infections inside the ear

Antibiotics are not usually offered because infections inside the ear often clear up on their own and antibiotics make little difference to symptoms, including pain.

Antibiotics might be prescribed if:

  • an ear infection does not start to get better after 3 days
  • you or your child has any fluid coming out of their ear
  • you or your child has an illness that means there's a risk of complications, such as cystic fibrosis

They may also be prescribed if your child is less than 2 years old and has an infection in both ears.

Outer ear infections

Your GP might prescribe:

  • antibiotic ear drops – to treat a bacterial infection
  • steroid ear drops – to bring down swelling
  • antifungal ear drops – to treat a fungal infection
  • antibiotic tablets – if your bacterial infection is severe

If you have a spot or boil in your ear, your GP may pierce it with a needle to drain the pus.

Ear drops may not work if they're not used correctly.

Read more on the NHS website.

You can help avoid ear infections by not getting water in your ears and not putting cotton wool buds or your fingers in your ears.

Read more on the NHS website.