Earache in children and adults is uncomfortable and, if left untreated, can sometimes lead to complications.

Causes of earaches

Earaches can be caused by infections in both the outer ear (otitis externa) and the middle ear (otitis media). Infections of the outer ear are often known as “swimmers’ ear”, but you don’t have to swim or be underwater to get an outer ear infection. Even bathing and sweating in your ear can set up a warm, moist environment where bacteria can thrive. Outer ear infections are especially common in the warm, summer months, but can occur at any time of year.

Otitis media, or middle ear infections, often go along with seasonal allergies or sinus drainage. If you’re experiencing ear pain after a cold or during your allergies, you may have a middle ear infection.

Earaches can also be caused by trauma to the ear. This trauma can be caused by a foreign object or by a sudden impact to the ear. When waterskiing or wakeboarding, some people may hit the water hard and be unable to hear; this is due to a traumatic rupture of the tympanic membrane.

When to go to urgent care for an earache

An earache is often a minor annoyance that will go away after a day or two. But occasionally, you need to have a doctor evaluate your ears to prevent further complications. How do you know when to see an urgent care doctor for your earache and when you can wait it out? You should see your doctor if:

  • You’ve had an earache for 2-3 days
  • You have discharge from your ear such as blood or pus
  • You’ve experienced trauma to your ear
  • You’ve lost hearing in one of your ears
  • Your ear pain is accompanied by fever, chills, or large lymph node changes behind or below your ear

What your urgent care doctor can do for an earache

When you see your urgent care doctor for an earache, the first thing your doctor will do is examine your ear using an otoscope. Your doctor will examine the membrane while also looking for fluid or wax buildup.

Sometimes, in the case of impacted wax, your doctor can help clean your ear and immediately resolve your ear pain. In the case of fever or swollen lymph nodes, your doctor may order blood work to determine if antibiotics are needed to treat your ear infection. In the case of severe infections, we also offer injectable antibiotics to help you avoid a ruptured eardrum. Not all earaches will require treatment.

What you can do for an earache

The most important thing you can do for your earache is take anti-inflammatories such as Tylenol or Ibuprofen and take the highest dosage you can while you’re experiencing discomfort. You should not use leftover antibiotic drops from a previous ear infection; these drops can cause damage to your inner ear if you’re using them for the wrong type of infection.

Don't ignore that ear pain.

Untreated ear pain may lead to complications. If you need to see a doctor for that earache, MedHelp urgent care is open seven days a week with a convenient location near you.