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Are Ear Infections Contagious

Are Ear Infections Contagious?

One of the most commonly occurring inconveniences worldwide is ear infections. While adults have also reported suffering from this sore throat and ear pain-inducing condition, young children are more commonly targeted by it – so much so, that five out of every six children within the age of 3 have been reported to suffer from this condition at least once.

For anyone experiencing this condition themselves, or has a family member going through it – you are probably wondering, “Are ear infections contagious?”
This blog entails everything there is to know about ear infections, that can help you deal with this condition in a practical an timely manner.

What Is An Ear Infection?

Commonly known as an ear infection, and medically termed “acute otitis media,” this can be defined as an infection of the middle ear, i.e., the air-filled space behind the eardrum which consists of small vibrating bones.

Once diagnosed, its treatment might start with just pain management since most of the time these ear infections tend to get cleared up on their own – However, the person suffering from this condition might also be prescribed antibiotics depending on the severity of the infection.

Some people also develop a tendency to get an ear infection multiple times, which can lead to permanent hearing problems, along with other severe complications.

Types of Ear Infections

A laboratory test and analysis of the accumulated pus or discharge, along with a detailed physical examination are required to appropriately diagnose and determine the severity of the ear infection. There are also instances, where even a CT scan might be needed to carry out a diagnosis.

There are several types of ear infections – the list includes:

  • Acute mastoiditis
  • Vestibular neuronitis
  • Herpes zoster of the ear
  • Otitis externa
  • Otitis media – acute or chronic
  • Serous otitis media
  • Infectious myringitis

Causes of Ear Infection

There can be a number of factors that can contribute to the development of ear infections, or put you at risk of developing such a condition – These factors include:

  • Young children are more likely to get ear infections
  • Swimming in polluted water
  • Keep your ears wet i.e. not drying them properly after a bath or swim
  • Upper respiratory tract infections
  • Instantly altered air pressure – while airline travel for instance
  • Eustachian tubes being smaller than usual, or even blocked
  • Cleft palate
  • Overzealous cleaning of the ears, can scratch the delicate tissues.

Symptoms of Ear Infection

While the symptoms and their severity may differ for every individual, as well as on the type of ear developed ear infection – However, there are a few commonly occurring symptoms of ear infections – such as:

  • Sore throat and ear pain
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Itchiness over the outer ear
  • Mild deafness or a constant sensation that sounds are muffled
  • Ear discharge or pus
  • Blisters on the outer as well as the inner ear canal
  • Humming or buzzing noises in the ear
  • Vertigo i.e loss of balance

How Is An Ear Infection Diagnosed?

An ear infection is a condition that can not be diagnosed with telehealth i.e. a virtual consultation with the physician; this is so because the physicians require a detailed physical examination of the patient to properly diagnose the infection, its severity, as well as the consequent treatment plan. A laboratory test of the discharge or pus might also need to be conducted in order for an appropriate diagnosis to be made.

While it isn’t something that requires rushing to the emergency room, seeing your physician within the first 24 hours of the noticed/felt symptoms is recommended. With children being the most common target of this bacterial infection, they can be given medication such as ACETAMINOPHEN or IBUPROFEN, to gain control over the sore throat and ear pain.

Can An Ear Infection Cause A Sore Throat?

Considering the swelling that keeps the eustachian tubes blocked, which refrains the bacterial infection from seeping down to the throat, in most cases the throat is not affected by the ear infection. But most ear infections result from a viral or bacterial infection that comes from the throat through the eustachian tube.

So a simple answer would be, Yes! Having a bacterial or viral infection mostly leads to sore throat and ear pain – two of the most common symptoms of an ear infection.

Are Ear Infections Contagious?

The answer to the most asked question “Are ear infections contagious?” is – No! Ear infections are not contagious, which means a person which such a condition cannot spread it to others. Nonetheless, the colds that lead to ear infections are definitely contagious – so even if the person cannot spread the infection itself, they can spread the cold which can increase the chances of developing this ear infection.
Colds are spread when germs are released from the nose or mouth during coughing or sneezing. Anything that can reduce the spread of germs will help reduce ear infections.

Do Ear Infections Go Away?

The body’s immune system can often fight off middle ear infections on its own. Antibiotics are sometimes not needed for middle ear infections. However, severe middle ear infections or infections lasting longer than 2–3 days need antibiotics immediately.

When To See A Physician For Ear Infection?

You need to see preventive care physician when:

  • A fever of 102.2°F (39°C) or higher
  • Pus, discharge, or fluid coming from the ear
  • Worsening symptoms
  • Symptoms of a middle ear infection that last for more than 2–3 days
  • Hearing loss

– Disclaimer –
This blog is for informational & educational purposes only, and does not intend to substitute any professional medical advice or consultation. For any health related concerns, please consult with your physician, or call 911.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by Dr. Syra Hanif, M.D. on 01/27/2023

Learn more about our editorial process.

  • About The Author

    Dr. Syra Hanif M.D.

    Board Certified Primary Care Physician

Dr. Syra Hanif is a board-certified Primary Care Physician (PCP) dedicated to providing compassionate, patient-centered healthcare.

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