Adult ear infections are not common. When they occur, it is because fluid is trapped behind the eardrum in an area called the middle ear. This fluid causes painful pressure, the main symptom of an ear infection. The National Institutes of Health suggests a cold or allergy is often to blame for the blockage of the ear fluids. Ear infections are sometimes treated with antibiotics, but typically the focus is placed on managing symptoms at home.
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An antibiotic is prescribed to treat an ear infection that is presumed to be caused by a bacteria. Testing to determine if the infection is viral or bacterial is not often done. Instead, the doctor will likely advise the patient to wait and watch for about three days. If the infection persists beyond this time, an antibiotic will be prescribed. Individuals with chronic ear infections may be given an antibiotic right away. The University of Maryland Medical Center explains that most antibiotics will resolve the symptoms of an ear infection within three days. If the symptoms still persist, a different antibiotic may be given or it may be assumed that the infection is viral.
Oral Pain Medication
An adult can take oral pain medications, like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, as directed to manage the pain from the infection. While the pain medicine may improve the symptoms, it will not cure or fight off the infection.
A cold or hot compress can be placed over the affected ear to help reduce pain. Either type of compress should be administered for about 20 minutes at a time. Resting at an incline while applying the compress can relieve some of the pressure the fluids place on the middle ear.
Several types of ear drops may be effective in relieving pain from an infection. This includes over-the-counter, prescription and homemade drops. Homemade drops typically consist of some type of oil, like olive or castor oil. No drops should be placed into the ear when it is oozing pus or blood, which is an indication of a ruptured eardrum.