A frequent cause of ear pain is a bacterial infection of the ear. Ear infections occur when the Eustachian tubes connecting your ear and throat become swollen and blocked, trapping fluid inside your middle ear. This causes germs to grow and leads to an infection. They are especially common in young children, whose tubes are smaller and more prone to blockages, but can affect people of all ages. Most ear infections clear up on their own after a few days.
Children can experience additional symptoms including: irritability, difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, headache, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Often taking a wait-and-see approach is all you need to treat an ear infection. Symptoms often improve after a few days, and the condition usually clears up on its own within a week or two without treatment. Home remedies can be used to treat the pain. These include:
- Use of a warm, moist compress (such as a washcloth) pressed against the ear.
- Over-the-counter pain medications (acetaminophen or ibuprofen). Avoid aspirin, which has been linked to Reye’s Syndrome in children.
If bacteria are the cause, your doctor will recommend antibiotics. Children who experience persistent or frequent ear infections may benefit from tubes in the ears. These provide an outlet for fluid to drain from the ears and are temporary, meant to be worn anywhere from six months to two years.