Ear infections are a common problem in children, yet they can still strike in adulthood. And if they become a recurring issue, they can lead to serious complications, like impaired hearing.
Fortunately, there are ways to spot an ear infection so you can get treatment and avoid ongoing trouble. Dr. Vandana Kumra at ENT New York in Manhattan recommends watching for these subtle signs of an infection — and what issues you shouldn’t ignore.
Ear infection basics
People often associate ear infections with two things: ear pain and children. However, they can be far more nuanced.
Infections in the middle ear are the most common, leading childhood illness until age eight, but they can still strike older children and adults. However, they can develop in any part of the ear, including the inner or outer structures. And symptoms can vary significantly based on their location.
The good news is that ear infections often clear up on their own. But you still have to manage the discomfort and watch for signs you need medical intervention.
4 Subtle Signs of an Ear Infection
As mentioned above, the most obvious sign of this problem involves ear pain and discomfort. This symptom can be even more pronounced when lying down.
However, ear infections can also cause other issues, such as:
- Trouble sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- Problems hearing or a feeling of fullness in the ear
- Drainage from the ear
In most cases, these problems often appear after a cold or upper respiratory infection. And half of all children running fevers also have an ear infection.
You can often expect these symptoms to improve within a few days and clear up entirely within 1-2 weeks on their own. It’s generally safe to take a wait-and-see approach with ear infections. However, there are times you shouldn’t wait to see an expert.
When to seek treatment for an ear infection
As an expert ear, nose, and throat specialist, Dr. Kumra can get to the bottom of ear issues in patients of all ages, including adults.
If you suspect an ear infection, she suggests scheduling an appointment in the following situations, including:
- The child is less than six months old
- Severe pain, high fever, or being sicker than usual
- Pain that suddenly stops
- Pus, drainage, blood, or other fluid coming from the ear
- Symptoms that don’t improve or worsen within 24-48 hours
It’s also important to see a doctor if new issues develop, like headache, dizziness, weakness in the facial muscles, or swelling near the ear.
Dr. Kumra can often treat an ear infection with antibiotics taken orally or by the ear or nose. However, chronic infections could indicate draining problems or other factors. In these cases, Dr. Kumra could recommend an additional course of treatment, like surgery or ear wicks, to more effectively treat the condition.
When in doubt, don’t wait to contact an expert about a potential ear infection. While most are typically minor, they can impact hearing, tear the eardrum, and delay speech or developmental skills. It’s also possible for infections to spread to nearby tissue.
Dr. Kumra can provide personalized guidance on how to proceed to ensure you avoid any of these complications.
Could those symptoms be an ear infection? Contact ENT New York to schedule a consultation with Vandana Kumra, MD, in Manhattan today.