Viral Ear Infections


Viral ear infections are typically caused when an upper respiratory viral infection (e.g., a cold or influenza) spreads to the ear and causes inflammation and swelling.

Primary Symptoms

  • Viral ear infections can cause ear pain, drainage from the ear, loss of appetite, fever, vomiting, difficulty sleeping and difficulty hearing.

Secondary Symptoms

  • If the swelling becomes severe enough to cause fluid build up, symptoms can include popping or ringing in the ear, a feeling of fullness or pressure in the ear, balance problems and dizziness.


  • Treatment includes taking pain relievers (e.g., acetaminophen and ibuprofen), applying hot compresses to the ear and taking a decongestant. Sometimes a doctor will prescribe eardrops to relieve pain or a steroid to reduce inflammation. Antibiotics are only prescribed for bacterial ear infections.


  • Adults should avoid cigarette smoke and contact with people who have a cold or influenza, get yearly vaccinations against seasonal influenza and wash their hands frequently. The same advice applies to children, along with a few additional tips. Do not nurse or bottle-feed infants while they are lying down and avoid using pacifiers.

Secondary Infection

  • If there is enough swelling, fluid that is in your ear naturally cannot drain and you can be at risk for developing a bacterial ear infection.

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  • Photo Credit "Walls have Ears" is Copyrighted by Flickr user: laverrue (Ludovic Bertron) under the Creative Commons Attribution license.
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