Ear infections occur when fluid becomes trapped behind the eardrum, causing pain and inflammation. When this fluid becomes infected with bacteria, the best course of treatment is typically antibiotics. However, it’s worth noting that antibiotics aren’t the appropriate treatment for every type of ear infection. Below is an overview of common types of ear infections, when antibiotics are used and what type may be prescribed.
Types of Ear Infection
The most common type of ear infection is called acute otitis media (AOM). Symptoms include earache, drainage and fever. AOM is especially common in children because their Eustachian tubes, which equalize pressure and allow fluid to drain, are much shorter and more horizontal than adults’.
Other common types of ear infection include:
- Otitis media with effusion (OME), which means the infection has passed but fluid remains in the middle ear.
- Chronic otitis media with effusion (COME), which entails fluid becoming built-up on a recurring basis but without bacteria; this long-term condition can lead to hearing loss, especially in children.
- Swimmer’s ear (otitis externa), which happens when water becomes trapped in the ear canal (outer ear) and becomes infected.
When Are Antibiotics Prescribed?
Antibiotics are typically only prescribed to treat AOM and swimmer’s ear. This is because OME and COME occur after the bacterial infection has passed; antibiotics are not effective against the fluid buildup alone.
Your doctor will examine your ear with an otoscope and evaluate your symptoms to determine what type of infection you have and whether antibiotics will be effective. If your symptoms are mild, they may recommend taking a wait-and-see approach. (This is because antibiotic resistance is possible if taken too often.) If symptoms don’t resolve on their own or if they’re severe, then antibiotics will likely be prescribed.
Types of Antibiotics
Your doctor will prescribe either an antibiotic ear drop or an oral antibiotic. Ear drops are typically used to treat swimmer’s ear. Oral antibiotics are for AOM in most cases and are prescribed for about seven to 10 days. Be sure to finish your prescription, even if you feel better, or else your infection may return. For more information about treating ear infections or to schedule an appointment, call ENT of Georgia today.