I know it’s an Ear Infection – can you call in an antibiotic?

Jan woke up this morning with right ear pain. She had similar symptoms in 2015 and was diagnosed at that time with a middle ear infection. The infection was treated with oral antibiotics. Jan decides to be proactive and calls her doctor’s office before symptoms get severe and consult her primary care provider. She submitted a request with the front office for same antibiotic that treated her effectively a couple years ago. Jan receives a return call from the doctor’s nurse, informing her that she needs to come in to the office and be seen. What’s that all about? Why won’t they just treat her ear infection??

To answer, let’s consider a few common conditions that can cause ear pain.

  • Otitis media, or middle ear infection. This is what Jan was diagnosed with and treated for in 2015. We treat this condition with oral antibiotics.
  • Otitis externa, also known as an outer ear infection or, more commonly, swimmer’s ear. This condition is treated with an ear drop rather than oral antibiotics. The ear drop has two antibiotics and a steroid to reduce inflammation.
  • Eustachian tube dysfunction. The condition is not infectious and does not require antibiotics to treat. We usually recommend decongestants and a steroid nose spray (Flonase) for this.
  • Referred pain. Dental pain or TMJ syndrome can cause referred pain in the ears.

Jan’s doctor insisted on seeing her because although her pain was similar to that which accompanied her prior otitis media, he wants to make sure that this is truly the correct diagnosis, that nothing else is going on, and that she gets the appropriate treatment. If you are experiencing any situation like above consult your provider for care and always know you can contact the Family Practice Center as well.