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Are Ear Infections Contagious?

An ear infection is often the result of a bacterial or viral infection that typically affects the middle ear. Most ear infections clear up on their own and do not require medical intervention. However, more severe cases should be seen by a physician.

If you’re experiencing one or more of the following ear infection symptoms, please visit Coastal Urgent Care of Gonzales for immediate medical attention:

  • High fever
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Severe drowsiness
  • A recent blow to the ear or recent head trauma

Are ear infections contagious?

The good news is ear infections are not contagious. However, bacterial and viral infections that trigger them can and do spread from one person to another. Many ear infections develop during or following a cold or other contagious infection. There are three types of ear infections:

  • External ear
    Also called swimmer’s ear, an external ear infection occurs in the outer ear canal, which runs from your eardrum to the outside of your head. It is often caused by water that remains in the ear after swimming. This wet environment invites bacterial and fungal growth.
  • Labyrinthitis
    An inflammation of the inner ear or the nerves the connect the inner ear to the brain and can disrupt the flow of sensory information. Labyrinthitis is usually triggered by a viral infection, but it can sometimes result from a bacterial infection as well.
  • Middle ear
    A middle ear infection affects the air-filled space behind the eardrum. Most middle ear infections occur during the winter and early spring. Though they often resolve on their own, you should seek urgent medical treatment if pain persists or you have a fever.

How do people get ear infections?

Illnesses like the common cold and flu are the main culprits of middle ear infections. As we know, some of these infections can be highly contagious. Both infections spread through tiny droplets made through talking, breathing, sneezing or coughing. If these droplets are inhaled or land in the mouth of another person, they’re at risk of not only contracting the illness, but also developing an ear infection.

Middle ear infections are the most common type of ear infection from a cold or flu. They result from swelling and inflammation in your eustachian tubes. These tubes can cause blockages and stop fluid from moving through your middle ear. Other conditions that can block your tubes and result in an ear infection include:

  • Swollen adenoids
  • Allergies
  • Sinus infections
  • Changes in air pressure
  • Smoking
  • Seasonal changes

How can I treat an ear infection?

If you’re experiencing uncomfortable symptoms of an ear infection including pain, impaired hearing, redness or inflammation, dizziness or itching, here are a few things you can do at home to ease your symptoms:

  • Over-the-counter pain medications
    Acetaminophen and ibuprofen can be used to relieve pain associated with ear infections. Be sure to read and follow the instructions on the bottle. For very young children, consult your physician.
  • A warm or cool compress
    Alternate between warm and cool compresses to find out which on more effectively alleviates your pain symptoms.
  • Sleep in an elevated position
    Sleeping while slightly elevated will encourage fluid in your ear to drain, which will ease pressure and pain in your middle ear.

If you’re experiencing more severe symptoms including nausea, vomiting, fever or severe drowsiness, or if self-treating your symptoms has proven ineffective, please visit Coastal Urgent Care of Gonzalez. We can alleviate your symptoms and treat your ear infection with the appropriate type and dose of medication. Walk-ins welcome Mon – Fri, 9 a.m. – 8 p.m., and Sat – Sun, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.