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is an infection in the mastoid bone of your skull. The mastoid bone is located behind your ear. Mastoiditis is often caused by an ear infection that spreads. Your ear canal swells and traps fluid inside your ear. Trapped fluid causes bacteria to grow and spread to your mastoid bone. Have someone stay with you to watch for complications of mastoiditis such as brain swelling. They may need to call 911 when you are unable to do so.

Ear Anatomy

Common symptoms include the following:

  • Pain, redness, swelling, or tenderness behind or inside your ear
  • Thick drainage from your ear
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Fatigue or feeling irritable
  • Vomiting or loss of appetite
  • Hearing loss

Have someone call 911 for any of the following:

  • You have a seizure or lose consciousness.
  • You cannot be woken.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your symptoms, such as pain, redness, swelling, ear drainage, or hearing loss get worse.
  • Your fever gets worse.
  • You have a headache, fever, and a stiff neck.
  • You have a headache that does not go away with treatment.
  • You have weakness in your face.
  • You have a mass behind your ear that is red and swollen.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You think your medicine is not working.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


You may need to spend a few days in the hospital for treatment and monitoring. You may be cared for by a healthcare provider with training in ear, nose, and throat conditions. You may need any of the following:

  • Antibiotics help fight or prevent an infection caused by bacteria. They may be given as pills or eardrops.
  • 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.
  • Acetaminophen help decrease pain and fever. This medicine is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • 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.
  • Surgery or other procedures may be needed if other treatments do not work. You may need tubes placed in your ears to drain fluid and relieve pressure. You may also need surgery to remove infected bone or drain an abscess.

Care for your ears:

Keep your ears dry. Do not allow water or liquids to get into your ears. Use earplugs as directed when you shower or swim.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

You may need to have your hearing checked after your infection is gone. You may also need frequent ear cleaning. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Ā© Copyright IBM Corporation 2018 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotesĀ® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

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.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Mastoiditis (Ambulatory Care)

Associated drugs

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