When Should I See a Doctor for an Ear Infection?

Ear infections are some of the most common infections in children, teenagers, and adults. In fact, five out of six children will have an ear infection by the time they turn three, showing just how common ear infections can be!

Fortunately, with the help of an ear specialist, and through some online research, it’s easy to know when should I see a doctor for an ear infection. Below are some of the most common reasons to visit a doctor for an ear infection. Don’t let this simple illness go untreated and lead to bigger issues! Read on below for some general advice.

1. Ear Pain

One of the most common signs of ear infection is ear pain that is constant or happens intermittently when chewing or yawning. In children, ear pain can be almost excruciating, so it’s important to visit your doctor right away when having ear pain. An ear examination will show signs of an ear infection, which your doctor will then treat through medications such as antibiotics and pain relievers.

2. Loss of Hearing

If you’re wondering when should I see a doctor for an ear infection, it’s a good idea to see them when you experience any sort of hearing loss. Losing your hearing can be a scary experience, so if you know you don’t have any other medical conditions and are now having trouble hearing, it might be a sign your ear infection is getting worse. Fortunately, an audiologist will be able to treat an ear infection to restore your hearing.

3. Headaches

Because the ear, throat, and nose are all connected, infections in the ear can lead to discharge in the sinus areas, which can then cause painful headaches. It’s best to get help not just for your headache, but for the ear infection that is the root cause of your headache so it doesn’t return! Treating your ear infection can be the best way to get some long-lasting headache relief.

4. Jaw Pain

Pain from the ear can radiate to the sinuses, teeth, and even your jaw! It’s also possible for jaw pain to have other causes, however, if you notice jaw pain is only on one side of your face where you believe you have an ear infection, visit your primary care doctor for help. Other causes of jaw pain can be dental issues that can be fixed with the help of implants or other medical treatment.

5. Fever

Although ear infections sometimes only cause pain, many times they cause fevers as well. If you’re wondering when should I see a doctor for an ear infection, fevers are a very good reason to visit the doctor if they are over 103 degrees Fahrenheit in adults. A doctor can prescribe you medication to fight the infection and help lower the fever as well.

6. Seizures in Children

Fevers are also very common in children, and unfortunately, can cause what is known as febrile seizures. If your child has an ear infection and is now experiencing seizures, get them help right away from an emergency hospital. Seizures can be caused by fevers of 101 degrees Fahrenheit in children 6 months to 3 years old, but keep in mind every child is different.

7. Moodiness in Children

It can be hard to notice signs of infection in your child. However, if you notice changes in your child’s mood, such as irritability and moodiness, this might be a sign they have an ear infection and need to see a doctor.

8. If You’ve Been Swimming Recently

If you’re still not sure about when should I see a doctor for an ear infection, it’s a good idea to visit a doctor if you’ve been swimming lately. Dirty water from pools or the ocean can cause ear infections, especially if you haven’t worn earplugs. If you’ve recently been exposed to a wet environment and are now noticing signs of an ear infection, visit your doctor for help.

9. If You’ve Recently Washed Your Ears Out

Even if you haven’t been swimming in a pool or ocean lately, washing out your ears and nose cavity with a non-medical neti-pot or water that’s not distilled can be extremely dangerous. Never put foreign substances in your ear, even if you feel you’re just washing out your ears, as this can lead to ear infections and other serious infections in the brain.

10. Popping Sound in Your Ears

If you’re looking for another sign for when should I see a doctor for an ear infection, hearing a popping or whooshing sound in your ear might be a cause for a doctor’s visit. Ear infections have many symptoms, one of which is a popping sound in the ear due to fluid building in the Eustachian tubes. You don’t want to leave this untreated for long, as it can cause other issues in the long run.

11. You Experience Vertigo

Vertigo can be extremely scary. During vertigo, people feel dizzy and lose their balance, feel as if the room is spinning, and sometimes even experience vomiting. Vertigo is, unfortunately, a common side effect of ear infections that have gone untreated. Fortunately, physical therapists can help you restore your balance and find the best treatment for your vertigo and dizziness.

12. Ruptured Eardrum

If you’re now having sudden immense pain in your ear, loss of hearing in that ear, sudden ringing in that ear, and facial weakness, these could all be signs of a ruptured eardrum. Only a doctor will be able to tell for certain. However, sudden pain is a sign of ruptures caused by ear infections. This is also true if you’ve been using q-tips improperly and inserting them into your ear canal, which you should never do, regardless of whether or not you have an ear infection. Visit a doctor right away if you suspect a ruptured eardrum.

13. Loss of Appetite in Children

If you’re wondering when should I see a doctor for an ear infection for your child, a sign your child might be sick is loss of appetite. This can be dangerous, since children need to eat in order to remain healthy, and malnutrition can cause even more issues than a simple ear infection. If you notice any changes in your child’s appetite, visit a doctor right away to determine if they have an ear infection.

14. Blurry Vision

There are many types of ear infections, and one of the most common is what is known as Labyrinthitis, which is an infection of the inner ear. This can cause blurry vision along with other typical signs of a cold and flu. An eye doctor can examine your eyes and let you know if your blurry vision is being caused by vision disorders, or refer you to a doctor if your blurry vision continues due to an ear infection.

15. Trouble Sleeping

Because ear infections can be extremely painful, sometimes it can cause children to not be able to sleep as comfortably, or even not sleep at all. The same is true for adults, who can have trouble sleeping due to fluid build-up in the ears. If your child or you are having trouble sleeping due to ear pain, it’s a good idea to see a doctor for treatment of your ear infection. In addition, it’s been shown that children who bottle-feed are more at risk of getting ear infections than those who are breastfed, especially if they are fed when lying down.

16. Drainage From the Ear

Although draining of the ear is a common sign of ear infections, if you notice draining of the ear is coming from your child with no other symptoms, it’s not something to ignore. Drainage can signify an ear infection that is getting worse if it is now draining with pus. Visit a doctor right away if you notice pus-like drainage. In addition, did you know dogs and cats can also get similar drainage if their ears are infected? Animal clinics, much like doctor clinics, can help get treatment for your pet if you suspect your dog or cat also has an ear infection.

17. Bloody Discharge From Ear

If you’re looking for when should I see a doctor for an ear infection, bloody discharge is a sign to look out for. Bloody discharge from the ear can be a result of irritation in the canal, a ruptured eardrum, or other injury caused by an ear infection. It’s never a good idea to simply ignore this sign, especially in children. Visit your local hospital right away and don’t wait to get treatment if you notice blood coming out of one or both ears.

18. Symptoms Won’t Go Away

Ear infections will usually go away on their own without much help from a doctor or medication. However, if your ear infection or an ear infection your child has continues to linger, it’s time to get help from a doctor. Your doctor can provide you with medication and other exams to help determine if your ear infection has another cause, such as an infection nearby, or if it’s getting worse and needs more treatment. Without treating ear infections, you risk medical complications.

19. Ear Infections Keep Coming Back

Many children grow up with recurrent ear infections. Although it is somewhat normal to experience ear infections throughout the cold and flu seasons, recurrent infections can sometimes be a sign that your child or you need more medical care. Ear infections that keep coming back can be a sign of anything from an autoimmune disorder, to a sign that you need to partake in lifestyle changes such as cutting down on swimming or wearing earplugs. This is one of the best reasons to ask yourself when should I see a doctor for an ear infection, as only a doctor can help stop your ear infections from coming back!

20. Infection Spreads

The ears, throat, and nose are all connected, and this means if one part of this system is infected, the infection can spread to other parts. If you notice your ear infection has not caused you to have a throat infection, sinus infection, or are now experiencing worse pain, you should get treatment for your ear infection before it gets out of hand. Rarely, ear infections can lead to an infection of the mastoid behind the ear, which is called mastoiditis, or even an infection of the brain known as meningitis.

21. You Notice Developmental Delays

For those asking themselves when should I see a doctor for an ear infection, one of the surest signs to visit a doctor is if you notice your child has developmental delays after experiencing an ear infection. Because ear infections can lead to loss of hearing either temporarily or permanently, this can then lead to children experiencing delays in speech, social, and other skills. Developmental delays are, unfortunately, a complication from ear infections. Fortunately, your doctor can help figure out the best treatment for your child.

22. You Notice Tugging at Ears

If you’re still unsure about when should I see a doctor for an ear infection in your child, one of the most common signs is seeing your child tugging at their ears. This is a very common sign that your child is having pain in their ears, especially if accompanied by fussiness, irritability, fevers, and loss of appetite. Get your child the help they need by visiting a doctor to help them get rid of their ear infection, and prevent it from leading to complications.

Get Help for Ear Infections Today

Ear infections can be treated at home and usually go away on their own. However, if they’re causing symptoms in you or your child such as pain, dizziness, fevers, and irritability, it’s a good idea to visit a doctor. It’s also good to get help for infections to prevent them from leading to medical complications and keep them from coming back.