Are Ear Infections Contagious?

kid having an ear checkup

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  • Ear infections cannot be passed from one person to another. However, the organism that may be responsible for an ear infection itself may be contagious
  • To prevent complications from appearing, it's imperative that you seek medical attention immediately if symptoms appear, and employ natural treatment protocols to help address the infection

Here's some good news: Ear infections cannot be passed from one person to another. However, the organism that may be responsible for an ear infection itself could be contagious.1 Dr. Max April, chairman of the pediatric committee of the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, explains in Parents magazine how ear infections can spread and why they may be contagious among children:2

"The more children there are in a room, the more germs and colds there will be for your child to catch ... Although ear infections themselves aren't contagious, the upper respiratory illnesses that can lead to ear infections are. Also, when your child is with a larger number of other kids, who are probably going to be taking a lot of antibiotics, she's more likely to be exposed to drug-resistant bacteria."

How Long Do Ear Infections Last?

Pain that arises because of an ear infection tends to develop rapidly, but doesn't last long. According to KidsHealth, this gradually wears off in 24 hours. For middle ear infections, they tend to resolve on their own in around two to three days, even without treatment.3

In some cases, children can have fluid present behind the eardrum, called an effusion, after an ear infection, which may last for several weeks to months. This can cause the child to experience discomfort, usually a dull and abnormal feeling and not a sharp pain. This fluid may lead to a short-term reduction in hearing in the affected ear too.4

These Complications Can Arise if Ear Infections Are Left Untreated

If ear infections are not addressed immediately, complications may appear. Severe cases of recurrent acute otitis media (OME), or middle ear infections, or persistent otitis media with effusion (OME) can lead to impaired healing in children for a certain amount of time. While the hearing loss isn't substantial or permanent in children, this may temporarily slow down their language development and reading skills.

Although rare, some patients with chronic middle ear infections have conditions that can involve the inner ear, and they may experience problems like vertigo (dizziness) or permanent hearing loss. Patients with ear infections may also be predisposed to permanent physical injuries, such as:

  • Structural damage in the ear that includes erosion of the ear carnal
  • Cholesteatomas — These refer to abnormal skin growths that may appear in the middle ear.5
  • Calcifications — Some children with mild infections can develop calcification and hardening in the middle or inner ear. This rare complication is linked to immune abnormalities.

Other rare complications that can occur among ear infection patients are:6

Mastoiditis — If someone with a middle ear infection continues to experience pain and fever despite antibiotic treatment, a doctor can check if the patient has mastoiditis, or an infection of the bones of the skull region behind the ears. While most mastoiditis cases aren't linked to ear infections, there is still a possibility for this rare complication to develop.

Mastoiditis is often hard to treat, and patients may need to undergo drainage procedures and take intravenous antibiotics. In some cases, surgery may be needed, especially if an infection of mastoid air cells doesn't respond to antibiotics.

MeningitisBacteria from a severe ear infection may move toward tissues surrounding the brain.

Facial paralysis — A child with a middle ear infection may have facial paralysis, albeit rarely. In some cases, patients with chronic middle ear infections or a cholesteatoma may be more predisposed to facial paralysis. To resolve this issue, antibiotics or drainage surgery may be recommended.

To prevent these complications from happening, it's imperative that you seek medical attention immediately if symptoms appear, and employ natural treatment protocols to help address the infection.

MORE ABOUT EAR INFECTION

Ear Infection: An Introduction

What Is an Ear Infection?

Ear Infection Symptoms

Ear Infection Causes

Types of Ear Infection

Ear Infection in Babies and Children

Are Ear Infections Contagious?

Ear Infection Treatment

Essential Oils for Ear Infection

Ear Infection Prevention

Ear Infection FAQ

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