Early Signs of Ear Infection

External ear infections (external otitis) are the most common ear infections. They can be brought on by exposure to moisture, contamination or local trauma, according to the book, “Understanding Medical Surgical Nursing.” Staphylococci are the most common organisms that cause infection in the external ear. Otitis media, meaning inflammation of the middle ear, and labrinthitis, or inner ear infection, are the other common ear infections.

Pain and Itching

Pain is the most common sign of infection in all three types of ear infections, according to “Understanding Medical Surgical Nursing.” In children, an early sign of infection is tugging at the ear, indicating pain. The sufferer may also experience pain while moving the jaw. Tenderness around the ear, headaches and itching caused by bacterial growth in the ear are also early signs of infection, per the Mayo Clinic.

Inflammation and Hearing Difficulty

Hearing loss caused by the occlusion of the ear canal is a sign of inflammation of the external ear. Physicians can also detect redness and inflammation during physical exams using an otoscope. Fullness in the ear, and bubbling or crackling noises, are both strong indicators of fluid buildup behind the ear drum, which can cause hearing difficulty.

Drainage and Fever

Drainage from the ear may start out clear and turn purulent (pus-filled) as the condition worsens. Infected fluid can build up in the middle ear, increasing pressure in the middle ear, which can result in nausea and vomiting. If drainage presents in the ear canal, it is a sign of possible tympanic membrane (ear drum) rupture. Fluid imbalances can also cause vertigo (dizziness) and tinnitus (ringing in the ear), according to the Mayo Clinic.

Fever typically presents with an ear infection because it is the body’s natural defense to infection. A fever of 100 degrees F or higher can be an early sign of an ear infection.

About this Author

Annie McElfresh is a nurse by trade and an avid writer by night. Her background includes 10 years of experience in pain management, operating room, home health, and medical office management. She has completed two full-length novels, contributes to two blogs, and is a member of several writing forums.