There are many reasons why you might have an earache. A build-up of fluid deep inside the ear, an inner ear infection, a blockage caused by ear wax, or a throat infection which can affect the ear.
The main symptoms are pain (caused by the pressure of mucus on the eardrum), a high temperature and slight deafness. Earache usually comes on all of a sudden and the pain can be quite sharp.
Ask your pharmacist for advice. You can take over-the-counter medicines to help with the pain and any high temperature. Ear infections are generally caused by viruses and antibiotics are not required.
When to see your doctor
- If you have dizziness,
- If you have severe headache
- If your earache does not improve within 24 to 48 hours (1 to 2 days).
Earache caused by an infection
There may be watery or pus-like fluid coming out of the ear. This may be an outer ear infection affecting the ear canal (tube leading into the ear). The whole ear canal may become inflamed and sore, or there may be a boil (an infected hair follicle) inside the ear canal, which you may be able to see.
A boil inside the ear will usually burst, drain and heal by itself after a few days, but if you are in considerable pain and discomfort and do not want to wait for this to happen, see your GP.
Many ear infections clear up on their own without treatment but in some cases you may be prescribed antibiotic tablets or eardrops.