Early diagnosis and treatment may lead to a quicker recovery and reduce the risk of complications.
Read on to learn more about identifying and treating a double ear infection.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of a double ear infection are similar to those of a single ear infection, but they may be more severe when both ears are infected.
Symptoms may include:
- pain in the ear
- difficulty sleeping
- drainage from the ears
- a headache
- a fever that lasts for 2 or more days
- problems hearing
How to spot symptoms in toddlers and infants
Signs in infants and toddlers include:
- crying more than usual
- increased irritability, especially when lying down
- loss of interest in feeding
- pulling on the ears (this may not be a symptom of an earache in infants who are otherwise well)
- persistent fever, or a fever that goes away and then returns during the same illness
Hearing difficulties are probably the most common short-term complication of a double ear infection.
A person’s hearing will typically return to normal once the infection clears up.
Persistent or recurrent infections can lead to:
- Hearing problems: Permanent damage to structures within the ear can cause hearing loss of varying degrees.
- Ruptured eardrum: A torn eardrum may occur after severe ear infections. It will usually heal within a few weeks.
- Delays in speech and development: Infants and toddlers who experience a prolonged hearing loss may experience delays in their speech and development.
- Spread of infection: As with all infections, there is a risk that a double ear infection will spread to other areas of the body.
Long-term complications following ear infections are uncommon.
How is it diagnosed?
A doctor will usually diagnose a double ear infection by checking a person’s medical history and asking about their symptoms.
The doctor will examine both ears using a device called an otoscope. It comprises a light and a magnifying lens. Doctors typically look for redness, swelling, and signs of fluid behind the eardrum, which indicates infection.
A doctor may also use another device, called a pneumatic otoscope, to test how much the eardrum moves in response to pressure. If the eardrum does not respond to this pressure, it suggests fluid buildup behind the ear.
It is difficult to prevent ear infections in young children completely.
Steps to reduce the frequency or severity of infections include the following simple tips and habits:
- washing hands frequently to help prevent colds and flu
- avoiding people who are sick
- keeping children away from childcare settings when they are ill
- teaching children to avoid sharing their utensils with others
- avoiding exposure to cigarette smoke
- staying up to date on all immunizations, including the flu shot
Where possible, breast-feed infants, as breast milk provides additional protection from ear infections. Try to hold the infant in an upright position when feeding.
Also, avoid prolonged bottle-feeding at bedtime, as research suggests it can increase ear and sinus infections, acid reflux, and cough.
A double ear infection should begin to heal within a few days of treatment. But symptoms may not fully resolve until a person has completed the full course of antibiotics, which can take up to 10 days.
Home remedies can reduce pain and discomfort in the meantime.
Anyone who notices the symptoms of an ear infection should seek prompt medical treatment for the best outlook.
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