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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
An ear infection is also called otitis media. An ear infection may be caused by blocked or swollen eustachian tubes. Eustachian tubes connect the middle ear to the back of the nose and throat. They drain fluid from the middle ear. With an ear infection, fluid builds up and is infected by germs. The germs grow easily in fluid trapped behind the eardrum.
Call 911 or have someone call 911 for the following:
- You have a seizure.
Return to the emergency department if:
- You have a fever and a stiff neck.
Contact your healthcare provider if:
- Your ear pain gets worse or does not go away, even after treatment.
- The outside of your ear is red or swollen.
- You are vomiting or have diarrhea.
- You have fluid coming from your ear.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
You may need any of the following:
- Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines you are using to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly. Do not use more than 4 grams (4,000 milligrams) total of acetaminophen in one day.
- NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
- Ear drops help treat your ear pain.
- Antibiotics help treat a bacterial infection that caused your ear infection.
- Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
Heat or ice:
- Apply heat on your ear for 15 to 20 minutes, 3 to 4 times a day or as directed. Heat helps decrease pain.
- Apply ice on your ear for 15 to 20 minutes, 3 to 4 times a day for 2 days or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel before you apply it to your ear. Ice decreases swelling and pain.
Prevent an ear infection:
- Wash your hands often. Use soap and water. Wash your hands after you use the bathroom, change a child's diapers, or sneeze. Wash your hands before you prepare or eat food.
- Stay away from people who are ill. Some germs are easily and quickly spread through contact.
Return to work or school:
You may return to work or school when your fever is gone.
Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:
Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
Learn more about Ear Infection (Aftercare Instructions)
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