Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Ear Infection Health Center

Font Size

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...

Read the Could Your Child Have an Ear Infection? article > >

  • 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.
    Next Article:

    Symptoms of Ear Infection Topics

    Today on WebMD

    Ear Infection Slideshow
    Earache Cold Ear Infection
    Side view of child's ear
    Syringes and graph illustration
    Ear Infections When To Call A Doctor
    woman cleaning ear
    Ear Infections Medications
    Ear Infections Surgery
    24 Kid Illnesses Parents Should Know
    Parker Treating Ear Infections
    Ear Infections What Happens
    Ear Infections Exams And Tests