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Symptom Checker

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Coughs and Colds

Ear pain in adults always needs a doctor evaluation, since it is frequently a sign of a bacterial infection and does not typically resolve without antibiotic treatment. It is likely that your ear pain is arising from your middle ear (behind the ear drum). An infection in this area is called "otitis media."

Otitis media is very common in toddlers and young children. Children over the age of two do not always require antibiotic treatment for their symptoms to resolve, but it is important to have a doctor evaluate a child to consider antibiotic treatment if ear pain does not respond to over-the-counter pain medicines, if a fever is present, or if symptoms last longer than a few days.

If you have recently had congestion in your nose or if you have participated in airplane travel or diving, it is also possible that the normal drainage and air pressure within the ear has been recently altered. Drainage and pressure problems in the ear can result in the accumulation of clear fluid in the ear and can cause pain. Pressure-related ear pain problems are known as "barotitis" or, if fluid has accumulated behind your ear drum, "serous otitis media." Serous otitis media is not an infection and does not require antibiotics. Your doctor will need to inspect your ear with a magnifying instrument ("otoscope") to identify your correct diagnosis.


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