How is a middle ear infection treated?

Treatment generally involves an individualized, multifaceted plan that addresses the infection, minimizes ear pain, and reduces the possibility of complications, such as hearing loss.

Treatment of a middle ear infection may include:

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) for fever and ear pain

  • Antibiotic medications for ear infections caused by bacteria. Antibiotics may be given as oral pills or in ear-drop form. Antibiotics are ineffective against viruses and are not prescribed for middle ear infections caused by a virus.

  • Corticosteroids to reduce ear inflammation and pain

  • Drinking extra fluids

  • Follow-up medical care, as recommended, during and after a middle ear infection to reevaluate the ear and assess the risk of developing complications, such as hearing loss and chronic otitis media

  • Getting extra rest and sleep

  • Surgery in some cases to insert tubes in the ears to drain excess ear fluid, remove infected tissue, or repair a damaged eardrum

If you have a middle ear infection, do not use aspirin or products that contain aspirin because of the risk of developing a rare but life-threatening condition called Reye syndrome. Reye syndrome has been linked to taking aspirin during a viral illness, such as a viral middle ear infection or flu.

What are the possible complications of a middle ear infection?

Complications of a middle ear infection can be serious, even life threatening in some cases. You can help minimize your risk of serious complications by following the treatment plan you and your health care professional design specifically for you. Complications of a middle ear infection include:

  • Bell’s palsy (swollen or inflamed nerve that controls facial muscles)

  • Brain abscess

  • Chronic otitis media (ongoing middle ear infection)

  • Enlarged adenoids (enlarged lymphoid tissue in the back of the nose)

  • Loss of hearing, even deafness

  • Meningitis (infection or inflammation of the sac around the brain and spinal cord)

  • Ruptured eardrum

INTRODUCTION

What is a middle ear infection?

A middle ear infection, also called otitis media, is a common, often painful, type of ear infection that occurs behind the eardrum. Middle ear infections are caused by bacteria or viruses. A middle ear infection can interfere with the normal process of hearing and result in ear pain, hearing impairment, and other symptoms. People of all ages can get a middle ear infection; however, it is m... Read more about middle ear infectionintroduction

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of a middle ear infection?

Symptoms of a middle ear infection can vary and differ depending on the specific type of infection.... Read more about middle ear infectionsymptoms

CAUSES

What causes a middle ear infection?

Normally, fluid in the middle ear drains through the Eustachian tube to the throat. When the Eustachian tube becomes blocked or swollen, the fluid builds up in the middle ear. Bacteria and viruses grow and multiply easily when fluid in the middle ear does not drain normally. Conditions that cause swelling or blockage of the Eustachian tube include:... Read more about middle ear infectioncauses

Medical Reviewer: McDonough, Brian MD Last Annual Review Date: Jan 5, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

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