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Double Ear Infection: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment and Prevention

Did you know that double ear infections can be more severe than single ear infections? In this blog post, we’ll delve deep into the world of double ear infections, discussing everything from symptoms and causes to treatments and prevention strategies. So, sit back and let us guide you through this often misunderstood condition, the “double ear infection.”

Key Takeaways

  • Double ear infections can be identified by symptoms such as severe auditory discomfort, fever, pus release and hearing impairment.
  • Treatment options may include medications, home remedies or surgical interventions depending on the cause and severity of the infection.
  • Prevention strategies involve good hygiene practices and minimizing exposure to allergens/irritants. Medical attention should be sought if symptoms persist or worsen.

Understanding Double Ear Infections

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A double ear infection, also known as a bilateral ear infection, is characterized by inflammation and fluid accumulation in both ears, often caused by viral or bacterial infections. These infections can be more severe than single ear infections, as they affect both ears simultaneously. Commonly, double ear infections result from inflammation of the Eustachian tubes, which connect the middle ear to the back of the throat to facilitate fluid drainage and equalization of air pressure. This inflammation is generally attributed to allergies or upper respiratory infections.

A 2013 study in Pediatrics found that double ear infections are more prone to causing high fever and pus discharge from the ear than unilateral ear infections. Additionally, bleeding and bulging of the eardrum are more frequent and intense in double ear infections. Due to their severity, the recommended treatment for double ear infections is typically more aggressive than for unilateral (single) ear infections.

Types of Ear Infections

Ear infections can be classified into three types:

  1. Acute otitis media (AOM): the most prevalent type, caused by bacteria or viruses, and is characterized by pain, fever, and fluid accumulation in the middle ear.
  2. Otitis media with effusion (OME): characterized by fluid accumulation in the middle ear without any signs of infection.
  3. External ear infections (otitis externa): infections of the outer ear canal.

Double ear infections, including middle ear infection and inner ear infections, often involve acute otitis media in both ears, making them particularly challenging to manage compared to a single ear infection.

Otitis media with effusion (OME) involves fluid accumulation in the middle ear without accompanying signs or symptoms of inner ear infection. This condition is generally caused by an obstruction of the Eustachian tube, which links the middle ear to the posterior of the nasal cavity.

External ear infections (otitis externa), on the other hand, affect the outer ear and ear canal and are caused by bacteria or fungi. These infections are often characterized by itching, redness, and swelling of the ear canal.

Identifying Symptoms of Double Ear Infections

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Double ear infections manifest through the following symptoms:

  • Severe auditory discomfort
  • Fever
  • Pus release
  • Hearing impairment

These symptoms are usually more intense than those of unilateral ear infections, so early recognition and appropriate treatment are vital.

Should these clinical symptoms manifest in you or your child, a consultation with a healthcare provider is recommended, especially when a bacterial infection is suspected.

Recognizing Symptoms in Infants and Toddlers

Infants and toddlers with double ear infections may display signs such as tugging on both ears, irritability, and difficulty sleeping. These symptoms can be particularly distressing for young children, who may be unable to communicate their discomfort effectively. Closely observing your child for any signs of double ear infections is advisable, as early intervention can prevent complications and ease their discomfort.

Other symptoms of double ear infection in infants may include:

Prompt medical attention is necessary if your child shows any of these symptoms, ensuring correct diagnosis and treatment.

Causes and Risk Factors

Common causes and risk factors for double ear infections include:

  • Colds
  • Flu
  • Allergies
  • Congestion
  • Swelling in the nasal passage, throat, and Eustachian tubes

Children are more susceptible to double ear infections due to their shorter Eustachian tubes, which make it easier for bacteria and viruses to enter the middle ear. Additionally, inflammation in the Eustachian tubes due to allergies or upper respiratory infections can also contribute to double ear infections.

Grasping these risk factors is key in the prevention and management of double ear infections. Timely treatment of underlying causes like allergies and upper respiratory infections can lower the risk of double ear infections or at least lessen their impact on your or your child’s life. To better understand and manage this condition, it’s important to learn about double ear infections and their potential complications.

Treatment Options for Double Ear Infections

Treatment options for double ear infections vary depending on the underlying cause and degree of severity, and may include medications, home remedies, and surgical interventions. Next, we’ll delve into each of these treatment options, offering advice on effective management and alleviation of double ear infection symptoms.


Antibiotics, such as amoxicillin, are necessary to address double ear infections caused by bacteria. However, if the infection is caused by a virus, antibiotics may not be effective, as the virus will need to run its course. In addition to antibiotics, over-the-counter painkillers like Tylenol (acetaminophen) and Advil (ibuprofen) can help alleviate ear pain. Oral or nasal antihistamines may also be beneficial in reducing swelling of the Eustachian tubes, which can contribute to double ear infections.

Consulting a healthcare professional or pharmacist to find the right medication for your situation is vital. The right treatment can expedite your recovery and restore your daily activities.

Home Remedies and Self-Care

In addition to medical treatments, home remedies and self-care measures can help alleviate symptoms of double ear infections. Applying a warm compress to the affected ear for 10-15 minutes, multiple times per day, may provide relief from pain and discomfort. Saltwater gargles can also help soothe a sore throat that may accompany double ear infections.

While these home remedies can manage symptoms, remember that severe cases of double ear infections warrant medical attention. Don’t hesitate to consult a healthcare professional if symptoms persist, worsen, or you are unsure of the next steps.

Ear Tubes and Surgical Interventions

In cases where medications and home remedies are not effective, ear tubes or other surgical interventions may be necessary. Ear tubes, also known as tympanostomy tubes or ventilation tubes, are small metal or plastic tubes that are surgically inserted into the eardrums to treat double ear infections. They serve to ventilate the middle ear and inhibit fluid accumulation, thus decreasing the frequency and intensity of ear infections.

Ear tubes are often suggested for individuals who:

  • Suffer from recurrent middle ear infections
  • Have hearing loss caused by persistent middle ear issues
  • Want to avoid speech impediments and other developmental issues in young children with chronic otitis media, as recurrent ear infections can result in hearing impairment.

Should you or your child grapple with chronic or recurrent ear infections, a discussion with a healthcare professional about the possibility of ear tubes or other surgical interventions could be beneficial.

Prevention Strategies

Preventing double ear infections begins with maintaining good hygiene practices, such as frequently washing hands, abstaining from contact with individuals who are ill, and refraining from touching the face with unwashed hands. Minimizing exposure to allergens and irritants, such as smoke, dust, and other airborne particles, can also help prevent double ear infections. Utilizing air filters in the home may be beneficial in reducing allergen exposure.

Additionally, staying up-to-date with vaccinations, such as the flu shot, can help prevent upper respiratory infections that may contribute to double ear infections. If you suffer from allergies, managing them with antihistamines and nasal sprays can also play a role in preventing double ear infections. Adhering to these preventive measures can diminish the risk of double ear infections, promoting overall ear health.

When to Seek Medical Attention

Medical attention is necessary for double ear infections if symptoms persist, worsen, or if there’s pus or bloody discharge, as these may signify a severe infection or complications.

Timely intervention can help prevent further complications and ensure that you or your child receive the appropriate treatment for a speedy recovery. Always consult a healthcare professional if you are unsure about your symptoms or the proper course of action.


In conclusion, double ear infections can be more severe than single ear infections and require prompt attention and treatment. Understanding the symptoms, causes, treatment options, and prevention strategies can help you and your family stay ahead of this challenging condition. Remember, when in doubt, seek medical attention to ensure the best outcome and a swift return to health.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How do you get rid of a double ear infection?

To get rid of a double ear infection, antibiotics such as amoxicillin may be needed. Over-the-counter pain relievers can help reduce pain and discomfort, while warm compresses can be applied to the affected area. Antibiotics should be taken for a week or more to ensure the infection is fully treated.

What happens when you have a double ear infection?

Double ear infections, also known as bilateral acute otitis media (BAOM), occur when an infection starts in one ear and quickly develops in the other, leading to an ear infection in both ears. Symptoms of a double ear infection are more severe and may include headache, fever, confusion, neck stiffness, vomiting, seizures, trouble moving, and changes in vision. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential for quicker recovery and to reduce potential complications.

What happens if you leave a double ear infection untreated?

If a double ear infection is left untreated, it can spread to nearby tissues and organs, such as the mastoid, potentially resulting in bone damage and cyst formation. In rare cases, the infection may even spread to the skull, causing meningitis.

Should I go to school with a double ear infection?

It is generally safe to go to school with an ear infection, as they are not contagious and can be managed. However, if the infection is causing your child significant discomfort, it is recommended that they stay home until symptoms have improved.

Are ear infections contagious?

Ear infections are not contagious, although colds that may accompany them can be. With no fever and acting well, the child can return to day care or school just like any other child with a cold. There is also no restriction on swimming with an ear infection.

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