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    Symptoms of Ear Infection - Topic Overview

    Ear pain may be the first symptom of an ear infection, especially if you have moderate to severe ear pain during or shortly after you have a cold. Other symptoms of an ear infection may include:

    • Swelling, heat, or tenderness around or behind the ear.
    • Redness of the ear, ear canal, or skin around or behind the ear.
    • Drainage from the ear that does not look like earwax.
    • Itching of the ear or ear canal.
    • Fever.

    Several different parts of the ear can become infected.

    Recommended Related to Ear Infection

    Could Your Child Have an Ear Infection?

    Even newbie parents can spot diaper rash or a runny nose with no problem, but ear infections may come with only a whisper of symptoms. Yet three-quarters of children will get one by age 3. "An ear infection happens when you get infected fluid or pus behind the eardrum," says Jennifer Shu, MD, FAAP. She is a pediatrician in Atlanta and editor of American Academy of Pediatrics Baby & Child Health. The most common cause? Colds. When secretions get trapped in the middle ear, viruses or bacteria...

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    • Ear pain and fever may be caused by a middle ear infection (acute otitis media), especially if cold symptoms, such as a runny or stuffy nose or a cough, have been present for a few days.
    • Ear pain may also be caused by a fluid-filled blister on the eardrum (bullous myringitis).
    • Itching, a feeling of fullness in the ear, and pain that is worse when you chew, press on the "tag" in front of your ear, or wiggle your earlobe may be caused by an infection of the ear canal (otitis externa).
    • You may have an infection of the outer ear (cellulitis).

    Complications of a middle ear infection can be caused by other serious problems.

    • Redness, swelling, pain behind the ear, and fever may be caused by an infection of the bone located behind the ear (mastoiditis). Pain will get worse when you press on the bone behind the ear. This infection is rare and usually occurs 10 to 14 days after a middle ear infection.
    • Headache with severe stiff neck, irritability, confusion, and excessive sleepiness may be caused by an infection of the lining of the brain (meningitis).
    • Severe dizziness (vertigo) and hearing loss may be caused by swelling and irritation in the inner ear (labyrinthitis).

    If you have symptoms of an ear infection or think that complications of an ear infection are developing, call your doctor for an evaluation.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: November 14, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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