Ear infections can be very unpleasant. They are a common cause of illness in both the young and old, leading to time off work and school. A severe ear infection can cause a fever. This may be a sign that you need some antibiotics; you should certainly see a doctor. They will examine you for signs of infection and they may take your temperature and blood pressure also. On looking in your ears they may see redness, swelling, discharge and flaky skin. Outer ear infection is much less likely to cause a fever than middle ear infection is. These are often more severe and signs include a red and bulging eardrum with fluid visible behind it. This type tends to be more painful and make people feel more unwell.
If treatment is not sought in time or fails then the eardrum may burst. The pressure of the fluid behind it gradually builds up to the point where the drum tears. The hole allows the fluid out and air in. This can clear up the infection. You may still need antibiotics but in this situation the remaining infection may clear up on its own.
Outer ear infection can be treated easily with simple drops. These may contain an antibiotic, steroids as well as a fungus killing agent. Middle ear infection usually requires tablet or liquid antibiotics taken by mouth.
A fever can be treated with paracetamol. This makes you feel much better and reduces the temperature. It is cheap and available over-the-counter in many countries. Fevers can make you feel very unwell. Confusion, irritability and nausea are common.
Outer ear infections can sometimes be prevented by wearing moulded earplugs to keep water out. Some people find that their canals become sore and itchy after swimming or having a bath. ZenPlugs moulded earplugs are excellent at preventing this problem. They block the water and are also antibacterial.
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This article is not a substitute for professional medical advice from a doctor. Make sure you visit one if you have and ear disorder.
Dr Toby Bateson