How Do You Know If an Ear Infection is Viral or Bacterial?

Although mostly considered a childhood disease, slightly less than 20 percent of ear infection neck pain occurs in adults. Ear infections are more common in children because their Eustachian tubes are smaller and can therefore become blocked more easily.

Ear infections can affect the inner, middle, and outer ear and can be caused by inflammation, bacteria or viruses, or water left in your ear after swimming or bathing.

What Causes It?

Most middle ear infections occur when an infection, such as a cold, leads to a buildup of mucus in the middle ear and causes the Eustachian tube (the thin tube that runs from the middle ear to the back of the nose) to swell. or blocked.

This means that the mucus cannot drain properly, making it easier for the infection to spread to the middle ear. An enlarged adenoid (the soft tissue at the back of the throat) can also block the Eustachian tube. An adenoid may be removed if it causes persistent or frequent ear infections.

Younger children are particularly susceptible to middle ear infections

  • The Eustachian tube is smaller in children than in adults
  • A child’s adenoids are relatively much larger than an adult’s

Certain conditions can also increase the risk of middle ear infections, including

  • Cleft palate – a type of birth defect where a child has a cleft in the roof of the mouth.
  • Down syndrome – is a genetic disorder that usually causes some level of learning disability and a characteristic range of physical features.

Other causes include:

  • Ear Infection

A middle ear infection is an inflammation of the middle ear. There are two forms of this type of ear infection, acute and chronic. Acute otitis media is generally short-lived, and chronic otitis media usually lasts for several weeks. Babies, toddlers, and children with middle ear infections may be irritable, pull and tug at their ears, and experience a variety of other signs and symptoms. Treatment depends on the type of ear infection. However, the cause may also be eustachian tube neck pain.

  • Earwax

Earwax (earwax) is a natural substance secreted by special glands in the skin on the outer part of the ear canal. It repels water and captures dust and sand particles. Usually, a small amount of wax builds up, dries, and then falls out of the ear canal, carrying unwanted particles with it. Ideally, you should never clean your ear canals. The absence of earwax can result in dry, itchy ears and even infection. Earwax can build up in the ear for a variety of reasons including; narrowing of the ear canal, production of less earwax due to aging, or overproduction of earwax in response to trauma or blockage of the ear canal.

What are the Symptoms of An Ear Infection?

Fluids and germs can get stuck in the outer, inner, or middle ear and cause different types of ear infections and symptoms.

  • Infection of the Outer Ear

An outer ear infection is often referred to as a swimmer’s ear. It is possible for bacteria to grow in the water that remains in your ear after swimming or bathing. This is usually not a problem. But if you have a scratch or pain in your ear, it can lead to a bacterial infection.

Common symptoms of swimmer’s ear include:

  • Redness on the outer ear
  • Itch
  • Ear pain and congestion
  • Yellow or yellow-green discharge
  • Swollen ear or neck
  • Changes or loss of hearing
  • A fever, usually between 100-104 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Inner ear infection

Also known as labyrinthitis, this type of ear infection occurs when your inner ear becomes swollen or irritated due to a cold, flu, allergy, or another condition such as meningitis.

Common symptoms of inner ear infections include:

  • Dizziness, nausea, and vomiting
  • Ear ache
  • Balance problems
  • Changes or loss of hearing
  • Middle Ear Infection

Inflammation of the middle ear is known as otitis media. They are the most common type of ear infection, especially in children. Middle ear infections usually occur when the Eustachian tubes that connect your ears to your neck are swollen from a cold, flu, or allergy. Also, people ask that ear infections cause neck pain so can neck pain cause dizziness, well yes it can in some issues.

When your Eustachian tubes are working normally, they drain fluid from your middle ear. But if they’re swollen because you’re sick, the fluid can’t drain. Instead, this fluid collects behind the eardrum, making it more likely that the bacteria will develop into an ear infection.

It’s also possible that swollen adenoids (lumps of tissue in the back of the nose) are preventing ear fluid from draining. If the adenoids are enlarged or irritated, they can block the opening of the Eustachian tube.

Common symptoms of otitis media include:

  • Ear ache
  • A fever, usually between 100-104 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Headaches
  • Fluid coming from the ear
  • Changes or loss of hearing
  • Balance problems

Sometimes people can have symptoms of a middle ear infection, such as hearing loss, without actually having an infection. This is caused by inflammation and fluid buildup in the middle ear. Once the fluid drains, hearing usually returns to normal – which can take weeks.

Who is Most Likely to Get an Ear Infection?

Anyone can get an ear infection. But you’re more likely to get ear infections if you have allergies or other conditions that cause congestion. You may also get more ear infections if you have a weakened immune system and are often sick.

A person’s anatomy can also increase their chance of getting an ear infection. This is why ear infections are more common in young children and people with birth defects or medical conditions such as cleft palate or Down syndrome.

Ear Pain Remedies and Medical Treatment for Ear infection Neck Pain

There are several effective home remedies for ear and throat pain. There are also medical treatments available depending on what is causing your symptoms.

Home Remedies

Getting plenty of rest and fluids is a good place to start if you have a cold or other infection, such as a throat, sinus, or ear infection.

You can also try:

  • A humidifier to help keep your throat and nasal passages moist
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) pain and fever medication
  • OTC throat lozenges or sore throat spray
  • OTC antihistamines
  • A saltwater gargle
  • Popsicles or ice chips for throat pain and inflammation
  • A few drops of warmed olive oil in the ears
  • Antacids or OTC GERD treatments

Medical Treatment

Most throat and ear infections clear up without treatment within a week. Antibiotics are rarely prescribed unless you have repeated strep infections or have a weakened immune system. Antibiotics are also used to treat dental infections. Medical treatment for sore throat and ear pain depends on the cause. Treatment includes:

  • Antibiotics 
  • Prescription acid reflux medication
  • Nasal or oral corticosteroids
  • Prescription allergy medication
  • Surgery to remove the tonsils or adenoids

How Do You Know if an Ear Infection is Viral or Bacterial?

It can be difficult to tell, at least in the beginning. If you or your child is recovering from a virus (cold or flu), it’s probably more likely you’re dealing with a viral ear infection. If strep throat or pneumonia has been in the house, there’s a greater chance that it’s bacterial. But that’s not always the case.

Symptoms are similar to viral and bacterial infections. One difference is you have a higher fever with a bacterial ear infection. However, fevers can also happen with viral infections.

Often, it’s a bit of a waiting game. If the ear infection goes away on its own within a week or so, you can assume it was caused by a virus. If it isn’t improving after a week, it might be a bacterial infection and you should definitely seek medical treatment.

Can Middle Ear Infections Be Prevented?

It’s impossible to prevent middle ear infections, but there are some things you can do that can reduce your child’s risk of developing this condition. These include:

  • Make sure your child is up-to-date on routine vaccinations – especially the pneumococcal vaccine and the DTaP/IPV/Hib (5 in 1) vaccine
  • Do not expose your child to a smoky environment (secondhand smoke)
  • Do not give your baby a dummy once he is older than six to twelve months.

Avoiding contact with other children who are unwell can also help reduce the chance of your child getting an infection that could lead to otitis media.