From your health and wellness experts at Prisma Health

Adult ear pain: Is it an infection?

Prisma Health Telehealth
Parents know how common ear infections are in children, but what about adults? According to Prisma Health nurse practitioner Katie Schill, ear pain in an adult is often not an infection.
“Ear pain can be bothersome and, at times, disruptive,” she said. “It’s also common with viral upper respiratory illnesses and allergies. If you have other upper respiratory symptoms, often the pain is due to fluid imbalance and congestion.”
Katie recommends trying Mucinex, Flonase and ibuprofen or acetaminophen. She said it can take a few days for the fluid to balance out and the ear pain to subside. 
Ear pain can also occur if the canal is occluded (or stopped up) with wax. Katie said this is especially common among people who use ear buds or cotton swabs. To remove the wax, she recommends using an over-the-counter earwax kit available at pharmacies. 
If you have any of the symptoms below, Katie said it’s time to see your primary care provider or same-day care provider:
  • Continued ear pain after five days
  • Significant drainage from your ear
  • Changes in hearing
  • Ear pain with fever and no other symptoms
  • Unbearable ear pain

Same-Day Care

Prisma Health offers several same-day care options for minor illnesses such as ear pain and UTIs. 

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