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When an Earache Needs Medical Attention

Last month we went over the signs and symptoms of realizing when a stomachache may require a visit to the doctor, recently I was confronted with a similar issue — an earache. I used to think that ear infections were just a problem for babies and small children, but adults can suffer from them, too. While earaches can be a symptom of a cold, that ache can turn into an infection. Since ear infections require antibiotics (earaches generally subsides when the cold goes away), your ears might need some medical attention.

Here are symptoms to look for when an earache has evolved into an ear infection, meaning time to visit your doctor.

  • Loss of appetite. This may be apparent in young children, especially during bottle feedings. Pressure changes in the middle ear as the child swallows, causing more pain.
  • Irritability.
  • Poor sleep. Pain may be more persistent when lying down as fluid is shifting.
  • Fever. Ear infections can cause temperatures up to 104°F.
  • Vertigo. You may have a sense of spinning.
  • Drainage from the ear. Yellow, brown, or white fluid that isn't earwax may seep from the ear, indicating the eardrum has ruptured.
  • Difficulty hearing. Fluid build-up in the middle ear prevents the eardrum from functioning properly. The sound is then unable to be transmitted to the bones of the middle ear and from there to the brain.
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