Are Ear Infections Contagious? Causes and Treatment

are ear infections contagious

Ear infections are a common ailment, especially in young children. They can be painful and can be caused by a bacterial or viral infection.

Some ear infections develop after a cold or contagious viral infection. So, there are some who are curious if ear infections are contagious or not.

Are Ear Infections Contagious?

are ear infections contagious
Ear infections are commonly not contagious. However, the virus or bacteria that caused the infection can be transmitted to other people. (Photo by Stylecraze)

The answer is no, ear infections are not contagious. However, if they’re caused by a bacterial or viral infection like flu, then they can spread from one person to the other.

Two types of ear infections:

  1. Outer ear infections or otitis externa
  2. Middle ear infections or otitis media

An outer ear infection is usually caused by bacteria or fungi entering the ear through the ear canal. One example is the “swimmer’s ear” where the water left inside the ear canal can turn into a breeding ground for bacteria.

Another type is the middle ear infection, this is usually caused when a virus or bacteria infiltrates the middle ear and causes inflammation of the eardrum. These bacteria or viruses often come from a respiratory tract infection that has reached the ear.

Symptoms of Ear Infection

 

  • Pain in the ear
  • Sharp pain in the ear comes and goes
  • Fever (temperature over 102 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Loss of balance
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Drainage from the ear
  • Swelling around the ear
  • Mild hearing loss

These symptoms may indicate a more serious infection that requires antibiotics. If you’re unsure, it’s always best to seek medical attention.

How Do You Catch Ear Infections?

are ear infections contagious
The ear infection isn’t the one being spread but the bacteria or virus that caused the ear to be infected in the first place. (Photo by Cottonbro)

If you have a middle ear infection or severe ear infection that’s caused by bacteria, it’s possible to spread the bacteria to others. The ear infection isn’t the one being spread but the bacteria or virus that caused the ear to be infected in the first place.

In toddlers and children, ear infections can be triggered by flu or seasonal allergies.

But in general, ear infections are not contagious. So, if your child has an ear infection, there’s no need to keep them home from school or daycare. If you have an ear infection, you don’t need to worry about infecting others unless you have a virus like the flu that others can catch.

How Long Does an Ear Infection Last?

The short answer is that it depends. Most ear infections go away on their own within a week or two. However, some ear infections may last longer and may require antibiotics to clear infection. If you have an ear infection that lasts more than a week or if you have multiple episodes of ear infections, you should see a doctor. Don’t prolong and wait for more than a week to see a licensed physician.

Can Ear Infections Lead to Death?

No, in general, ear infections are not deadly. However, there are some exceptional cases where an ear infection can lead to death. This is usually due to a very severe infection that has spread to the brain. While this is very rare, it’s important to seek medical attention if you or your child has any symptoms of a severe ear.

When Does An Ear Infection Become Serious?

If you or your child has an ear infection, it’s important to monitor the symptoms. In most cases, ear infections are not serious and will go away on their own.

However, there are some cases where an ear infection can become serious. If you or your child has any of the following symptoms, it’s important to seek medical attention:

  • Severe pain in the ear
  • High fever (temperature over 102 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Loss of balance
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Drainage from the ear
  • Swelling around the ear

These symptoms may indicate a more serious infection that requires antibiotics. If you’re unsure, it’s always best to seek medical attention.

How Do You Know If An Ear Infection Has Spread to the Brain?

There are some serious cases where an ear infection can spread to the brain. The most dangerous complication would be a brain abscess or if pus accumulates in the brain. This is usually due to a very severe infection that has gone untreated.

Symptoms of a spread infection include:

  • Severe headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Confusion or delirium
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness

Antibiotics have the capacity to reduce the risks and dangers that come from ear infections. However, if left untreated, it can lead to complications such as facial paralysis, meningitis, hearing loss and brain abscess.

If you’re still not sure whether or not your ear infection is contagious, it’s always best to check with your doctor. They can help you figure out what’s causing your infection and whether or not you can spread it to others.

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