Ear Infection (Otitis Media) in Teens: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Picture of the anatomy of the ear

An ear infection may start with a cold and affect the middle ear (otitis media). It can hurt a lot. Most ear infections clear up on their own in a couple of days and do not need antibiotics. Also, antibiotics do not work against viruses, which may be the cause of your infection. Regular doses of pain relievers are the best way to reduce your fever and help you feel better.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, take an over-the-counter medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Read and follow all instructions on the label. No one younger than 18 should take aspirin. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
    • Do not take two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
  • Plan to take a full dose of pain reliever before bedtime. Getting enough sleep will help you get better.
  • Try a warm, moist face cloth on the ear to see if it helps relieve pain.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have worsening symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the area.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You have new or worse discharge coming from your ear.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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