What is a Bilateral Ear Infection?

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Ear infections
Ear infections (Image: Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Cameron Cassan)

Bilateral ear infections, also known as inner-ear infections, are painful and can cause a loss of sleep and irritability. At least three-fourths of children will have had at least one ear infection by the time they turn 3, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communicative Disorders.

Age

Children are the most likely to get a bilateral (or middle) ear infection, but nobody is too old for one. Adults also get ear infections, but not as often as children do.

Symptoms

The symptoms of a bilateral ear infection include earache, pulling on the ear, crying more than usual, sleeping trouble, failure to respond to sound, irritability, fever of 100 or higher, clear fluid draining from ear and having a headache.

Warning

Bilateral ear infections are usually not considered an emergency, but there are some things to watch for that should have immediate medical attention. Warning signs of a more serious infection include blood or pus draining from the ear, which may mean there has been an eardrum rupture.

Causes

Bilateral ear infections can be caused by viral infections which may cause the lining in the middle ear to become inflamed, which in turn may cause fluid to become trapped behind the eardrum. Another cause is having narrow eustachian tubes (the connector from the inner ear to the nose), which can become blocked.

Treatment

Sometimes no treatment is necessary and the ear infection will clear up on its own, but if medication is needed, an antibiotic will most often be prescribed. If ear infections happen a lot, the doctor may suggest having surgery to put tubes in the ear to drain the fluid so it won't build up as much.

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