An ear infection is caused by a bacterium or virus in the middle ear. This infection often results from another illness — cold, flu or allergy — that causes congestion and swelling of the nasal passages, throat and eustachian tubes.
Ear infections are very common and more often than not go on their own within 3 days, so you won’t always need to see your GP. However, if you still have the infection after those initial days then you will need to seek treatment. This may begin with managing pain and monitoring the problem, sometimes, antibiotics are used to clear the infection.
Some people are prone to having multiple ear infection, this can cause other serious complications or like Emma’s case – hearing loss.
What to look for
Symptoms of an ear infection tend to start quickly and include - pain inside the ear, high temperature of 35C or above, difficulty hearing, discharge coming out of the ear, a feeling of pressure inside the ear and itchy, irritated scaly skin in and around the ear.
How to treat an ear infection yourself
There are a few ways to help relieve any pain and discomfort from an ear infection. You could use painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, place a warm or cold flannel on the ear and you could maybe remove any discharge by wiping the ear with cotton wool. Things you shouldn't do is put anything inside your ear to remove ear wax, let water or shampoo get in your ear and do not use any decongestants or antihistamines.
To help prevent an ear infection of any kind, follow these tips, keep your ears clean by washing them carefully, make sure you dry your ears completely after swimming or taking a shower, don’t smoke, and avoid secondhand smoke as much as you can, try to manage your allergies by avoiding triggers and keeping up with allergy medications and wash your hands thoroughly, try to avoid people who have colds or other upper respiratory problems.
For an overview of ear infections and to learn more about illness that cause hearing loss click here.