Ear infections generally develop quickly. One common sign of ear infection is ear pain. You might also have fluid draining from the ear. Ear infections are most common in babies and young children, but adults can also develop them. Ear infections are not contagious.

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What causes ear infections?

The most common type of ear infection is a middle ear infection, also called otitis media. Infection caused by a virus or bacteria leads to fluid build-up, which results in pain and inflammation.

Swimmer’s ear is different. Swimmer’s ear is an infection in the outer ear, which is caused by bacteria that grow when ears are wet.

What are the symptoms of an ear infection?

Ear infection symptoms are similar in adults and children. They include pain or pressure in the ear and fluid draining from the ear. Some people also experience trouble hearing.

Additional symptoms in babies and children include:

  • Fever
  • Pulling at an ear
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Fussiness and crying
  • Loss of balance
  • General discomfort

Swimmer’s ear also causes these symptoms:

  • Itching inside the ear
  • Redness and swelling
  • Pain when ear is touched

Seek medical care if you or your child has any of these symptoms:

  • High fever
  • Fluid, blood or pus coming out of the ears
  • No improvement after two or three days
  • Severe ear pain

How is an ear infection treated?

Most ear infections clear up on their own within a couple of days. A healthcare provider may suggest ear drops or an over-the-counter painkiller. You can also try to reduce pain by applying a warm, damp cloth to the ear.

If the symptoms do not improve, your healthcare provider may prescribe an antibiotic. If you or your child has severe ear pain that lasts longer than a day, contact your provider.

If you or your child are having ear pain, contact the nearest CareNow® urgent care clinic to set up a visit.

You can also use our Web Check-In® tool to reduce your wait time.