Many people will experience an ear infection at some point in their lives. The condition is particularly common in children but is also common in adults. Symptoms of an ear infection usually start quickly and can include pain inside the ear, difficulty hearing and discharge running out of the ear. People with an ear infection may also experience a feeling or pressure or fullness inside the ear, itching and irritation in and around the ear, and scaly skin in and around the ear. Other symptoms include a high temperature, being sick and a lack of energy.
Ear infections can be very unpleasant, but the good news is you don’t always need to see a GP in order to treat them.
According to the NHS, inner ear infections usually get better on their own within three days, although sometimes symptoms can last up to a week.
If you have an inner ear infection, you can help to relieve pain and discomfort by taking a few self-help measures.
Painkillers like paracetamol and ibuprofen can be taken to improve pain, while it may also help to place a warm or cold flannel on the ear, advises the NHS.
Try not to let water or shampoo get in your ear, and don’t put anything inside your ear to remove ear wax.
Antibiotics aren’t usually offered for inner ear infections because they often clear up on their own, and antibiotics make little difference to symptoms, notes the NHS.
If you think you might have an outer ear infection, speak to a pharmacist.
They will be able to recommend acidic ear drops to help stop bacteria or fungus spreading.
A doctor may also be able to prescribe antibiotic ear drops for outer ear infections, or antibiotic tablets.
Steroid ear drops and anti-fungal ear drops can also be prescribed by a doctor if necessary.
What’s the difference between an inner and outer ear infection?
According to the NHS, inner ear infections affect the tube that runs behind the eardrum to the back of the nose.
Outer ear infections affect the ear canal – the tube between the outer ear and the eardrum.
While ear infections usually clear up on their own, you should see a GP if you have a very high temperature, or your earache doesn’t start to get better after three days.
Also see a doctor if you have swelling around the ear, fluid coming from the ear, hearing loss or a change in hearing.
If your ear infections are regular, or you have a long-term medical condition or a weakened immune system, you should also a GP.
In addition, see a doctor if you are being sick, or have a severe sore throat or dizziness.