Types of Ear Infections
The three main ear infections are: acute otitis media, otitis media with effusion, and otitis externa, also known as swimmer’s ear. Ear infections can be painful and may need antibiotics to heal. A physician or healthcare provider would be able to determine what type of ear infection a patient may have and if antibiotics would help.
Acute Otitis Media
- This type of ear infection is often painful but clears up quickly, once oral antibiotics are started. The symptoms of this ear infection include pain, fever, redness and pus in the ear.
Otitis Media With Effusion
- Otitis media with effusion is a build-up of fluid in the middle ear. This ear infection is more common than acute otitis media, and is usually triggered by a viral upper respiratory infection, an allergy, or an exposure to an irritant, like cigarette smoke. This type of ear infection does not warrant an antibiotic treatment and usually goes away on its own.
Otitis Externa (Swimmer’s Ear)
- Otitis externa is commonly referred to as swimmer’s ear, as it usually develops after swimming in a pool or other body of water. It is an infection of the outer ear canal. It can cause the ear to itch or become red and inflamed, so that head movement or touching of the ear is very painful. Pus might also drain from the ear. Antibiotic ear drops are usually needed to combat this infection.
According to WebMD, young children with ear infections recuperate quicker and more completely if medical providers give antibiotics immediately, instead of waiting to see if the child gets better on his own. These findings come from two clinical studies, one in the United States and one in Finland. For young children with middle ear infections (otitis media), both studies found that instant antibiotic treatment was far more effective that watchful waiting.
Symptoms of an ear infections might include pulling of the ears, drainage from the ears, fever, headaches, difficulty hearing, loss of balance and excessive crying in children.
When Antibiotics Are Needed
Not all patients with ear infections will recover without antibiotics. Those who benefit most from antibiotic treatment include:
- Those who have infections in both ears
- Those with ruptured eardrums
- Children who are 6 months old or younger
- Those that have severe ear pain and/or high fever
The Best Antibiotics for Ear Infection Treatment
Most antibiotics for ear infections are categorized under four families:
- Penicillin — Amoxicillin and Augmentin are common antibiotic treatments that fall under the Penicillin family. Amoxicillin is a generic term for the most common antibiotic used to treat ear infections. This is a synthetic formula of penicillin that is normally taken three times per day. Doctors prefer it because it causes less diarrhea than other antibiotics. In addition, it is also inexpensive. Augmentin is an amoxicillin drug with extra ingredients to inhibit bacterial resistance. This drug may clear up infections when other drugs have failed
- Sulfonamides — Bactrim and Septra are two different types of sulfonamide drugs combined with a trimethoprim. These are commonly used to treat children who are allergic to penicillin. Gantrisin is also frequently used as a preventative drug for kids with persistent infections, because it is only consumed once a day. Another type of sulfonamide is Ceclor (the brand name is cephalosporin). This is considered very effective, but it is expensive. Some newer cephalosporins include: Ceftin, Cefzil, Vantin, Suprax and Lorabid.
Cdc.gov: Know When Antibiotics Work (Ear Infections)
ear.emedtv.com: Antibiotics for Ear Infections