Best ways to treat an ear infection

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How to treat an ear infection?

Otitis is a very common ear inflammation in adults and children. However, there are several treatments to relieve the pain and avoid potential complications. Otitis can be treated with ear drops, antibiotics or other solutions that can provide relief for children.

Medical treatment

Should I use antibiotics for an ear infection?

Antibiotics are not always necessary to treat otitis, which may be of viral origin. In general, otitis in adults can be treated without antibiotics if fever and pain are moderate.

Bacterial otitis, on the other hand, is more common in children. For this reason, antibiotics are indicated depending on the symptoms, often in cases of intense pain or fever above 39°C. You should always see your doctor when symptoms include intense pain and fever.

Ear drops to treat otitis

In cases of severe otitis, the administration of drops into the ear canal is not very useful, as the infection is located behind the eardrum. It is more effective to put the drops into the nose rather than directly into the ears.

In the case of a perforated eardrum, ear drops are useful. Be careful, however: only certain drops can be used, as others may be toxic and contraindicated in the case of a perforated eardrum.

Ear surgery

Surgery is one of the solutions considered to treat very painful ear infections. This is known as paracentesis, which consists of making a microscopic incision in the tympanic membrane. In children with recurrent ear infections, the ENT specialist can apply small plastic tubes. The placement of the small tube has the function of maintaining ventilation of the tympanic cavity to allow the inflammatory and/or infectious process in the ear to heal completely in the following months.

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Can home remedies help your ear pain?

Natural treatments

It's also possible to treat an ear infection naturally! Natural treatments based on homeopathy or essential oils may be sufficient, but it's essential to consult your ENT specialist regularly, especially for children with otitis. 

A few simple steps can also help prevent symptoms from getting worse:

  • avoid touching the affected ear
  • stay away from draughts and cigarette smoke
  • dry your ears thoroughly if you put your head under water, and don't blow your nose too hard.

Over-the-counter (OTC) pain and fever reliever

Over-the-counter medicines can help alleviate an ear infection, provided the dosage and instructions are carefully followed. Let's think about paracetamol: it is a painkiller for fever and can also be given to children under the age of 3 months. It can also be taken occasionally during pregnancy. Ibuprofen, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, can also be useful to relieve an ear infection, but should not be used before 3 months of age. It is also not recommended from the beginning of pregnancy and is formally contraindicated in the last 4 months. 

Stay sufficiently hydrated

It's a good idea to drink plenty of water when you have an ear infection or any other fever-inducing infection: it's a way of compensating for the large amount of water lost through sweating. Mineral water is recommended, but you can also supplement your water intake with soups, broths or fruit juices. Be particularly careful with your baby or child, as dehydration can develop rapidly.

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When to Call a Doctor

Otitis affects everyone. For babies and young children, it is advisable to consult a paediatrician, especially if :

  • your child under 3 months has a fever, even a moderate one;
  • your child has a fever of 40 or more;
  • you notice suspicious symptoms such as purple spots, severe headaches, intense diarrhoea and vomiting, drowsiness, difficulty breathing, etc.

For adults, consult a doctor if symptoms do not improve after 2-3 days. Seek urgent medical attention if you experience unbearable pain, dizziness, hearing loss or ear discharge.

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