Ear, Nose & Throat

Are ear infections contagious: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention

Are Ear Infections Contagious, Have you ever thought of this question. You will surely find out the answer to this question in this article.

Ear pain can be a menace as if we do not have enough painful ailments that can affect other parts of the body. Ear pain is usually a sign of an ear infection.

An infection in the inner ear goes by the medical name Otitis media and can be quite a handful to deal with. This infection is mostly bacterial and usually occurs in the Eustachian tube inside the middle ear.

The Eustachian tube is a tube that links the middle ear and the nasopharynx. The nasopharynx is the upper side of the pharynx that connects with the nasal cavity above the soft palate. The Eustachian tube assists in regulation of the pressure between the middle ear and the pressure outside the ear, creating equilibrium.

Infections occur in the Eustachian tube when fluids stagnate in there; these fluids attract bacteria which attacks the inner ear causing inflammation and infection. Such infections are likely to occur to regular swimmers who constantly have their ears wet.

With all this in mind, the most likely question would be, are ear infections contagious? Good question, especially since popular rumor suggests that colds and coughs usually accompany ear infections. Colds and coughs are brought about by a viral infection which is very contagious.

Ear infections occur in two ways namely;

  • Infection of the outer ear otherwise known as Otitis externa
  • Infection of the inner ear otherwise known as Otitis interna

Outer infections usually extend from the ear canal right outside the eardrum to the opening of the ear itself in the outer part. Infections of the outer ear usually begin with itching and rashes on the pinna. The germs spread from the Eustachian tube, which provides excellent conditions for germs to breed due to their warm and moist nature, to the outer ear.

Inner ear infections occur when bacteria or viruses from the nasal area, mouth area, and eyes are trapped just behind the ear-drum. This brings about a feeling of nagging pain and also a feeling of blocked ears which make hearing difficult. Bacteria in the inner ear attack the ear canal causing an infection that might lead to building up of Pus.

An infection of the inner ear can also be coupled with fever and general body weakness as well as fatigue. So is an ear infection contagious? One of the best methods to answer this question is to identify the causes of this condition.

Causes of Ear Infections:

are ear infections contagious
Are ear infections contagious
Image source: thefitglobal.com
Accumulation of Germs:

An ear infection is generally caused by bacteria or viruses that attack the ear canal. These germs may also build up behind the eardrum causing a feeling of ear blockage and an irritating pain.

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Diabetes is among the top killer diseases today surpassing Cancer and HIV/AIDS. It is most prevalent among older people, but younger people with poor eating habits can acquire it too. An underlying condition of diabetes could cause ear infections as well.

Diabetes weakens the body’s immune system making your body susceptible to infections one of which can be an ear infection. So are ear infections contagious?

If they are as a result of an underlying condition of diabetes they are less likely to be contagious. Diabetes is however hereditary in some families, leaving the offspring of the patient susceptible to this condition as well.

Bad Skin Conditions:

Are ear infections contagious? If a skin infection such as psoriasis causes the ear infection, then there is little to worry about in the way of person to person infections.

Psoriasis may frighten many since it is characterized by scaly red patches on the skin that look like a serious rash. Psoriasis is not contagious though, so there is no reason to shy away from skin contact with a person suffering such a condition.

Psoriasis is caused by the malfunctioning of the body’s immune system, where the body’s defense mechanisms react at the wrong time causing adverse effects on the body. This auto-immune malfunction causes accelerated growth of cells causing them to pile up fast and form scaly lesions on the skin.

Eczema is another skin condition that could cause an ear infection. Just like Psoriasis, Eczema is not contagious although if the raw, inflamed skin becomes infected, the agent causing the infection may become contagious.

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Are ear infections contagious? Some of the symptoms might also answer this question.  Let’s have a brief look at some of the symptoms of an ear infection.

Symptoms of an Ear Infection:

Pain and Inflammation:

Harmful bacteria or viruses that affect the ear canal are likely to bring about inflammation as well as a nagging pain.

Ear Tenderness:

Heightened sensitivity also characterizes ear infections. This makes the affected ear or ears very tender when touched. This heightened sensitivity can be quite annoying especially when wind brushes through the ear.

Ear Swelling:

Swelling of the ear is another symptom of an infected ear. Swelling is caused by the accumulation of germs namely bacteria and viruses that affect the ear canal causing serious discomfort. The swelling will depend on the severity of the infection.

Hearing Problems:

An ear infection may manifest as a problem with the individuals hearing. This can be as a result of the eardrum being afflicted by the infection. An infection of the middle ear causes not only hearing impairment but also an intense pain.

Nausea and Vomiting:

Are ear infections contagious? In this case, they pretty much are. This is because nausea and vomiting might be brought about by a virus known as Norovirus.

Norovirus is highly contagious and festers typically in places where there is crowding of people such as nursing homes, cruise ships and dorm rooms. Nausea and vomiting can be brought about by dizziness due to an inflammation of the inner ear.

Well, are ear infections contagious? It could depend on the symptoms as detailed here. Different symptoms have varying effects, some may be contagious and some may not. Maybe the question, are ear infections contagious? Can be addressed by, looking at some of the treatments available for ear infections.

Treatments for Ear Infections:

Taking Antibiotics:

Are ear infections contagious? They most definitely are if bacteria and viruses have anything to do with it. Ear infections are mostly brought about by an accumulation of these germs in the inner ear leading to a lot of discomfort.

The bacteria can be neutralized by taking the right antibiotics in the correct doses. These antibiotics should, however, be prescribed by a doctor and not bought over the counter. Antibiotics don’t do much to combat viruses though.


Antihistamines such as Sudafed and Benadryl do well to ease symptoms caused by excessive mucus build up in the Eustachian tubes. These medication can be purchased over the counter or online.

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Warm Ear Compress:

Are ear infections contagious? It may not matter much with simple home remedies like this available at your disposal. A warm ear compress can go a long way in relieving the problems caused by ear infections.

Place a clean cloth in hot water and let it cool for a few seconds then compress it on the affected ear. Maintain the compress for at least 2 to 3 minutes. This should be done few times a day for best results.

Application of Eardrops:

Are ear infections contagious? Luckily it doesn’t matter much since there are simple remedies out there for any afflicted person to apply. An eardrop is one such remedy. Ear drops can either be bought from the store or made at home.

Homemade eardrops are made possible by adding a mixture of half rubbing alcohol to some half white vinegar. Applying this solution to the ear can help get rid of the excess moisture that breeds germs in the ear canal and therefore accelerates healing.

So the question, “are ear infections contagious?” can be put to bed according to the various treatments available for this ailment. The availability of simple home remedies means that you do not need to worry about ear infections being contagious.

Are ear infections contagious? Can also be an irrelevant question if there are ways to avoid ear infections altogether.

Preventions for Ear Infections:

Are ear infections contagious? Yes, they can be. But there are few ways to prevent the infection from spreading or prevent the infection from developing in the first place. Some of the ways to prevent this infection include;

Thorough Washing of Hands:

That urge to scratch and poke the ear during an itch can lead to an ear infection if your hands are dirty. It is therefore advisable to wash your hands before handling your ears.

Avoid Sharing Sensitive Items:

Are ear infections contagious? Yes, they are if you are careless enough to share sensitive items like earphones or ear muffs with infected people.


Vaccinations are available for the flu and other viruses that cause ear infections. A proper vaccination will save you the trouble of having to manage the condition in the future.

  1. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319788.php
  2. https://www.healthline.com/human-body-maps/eustachian-tube
  3. https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/ear-infection/understanding-otitis-media-symptoms
  4. https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/psoriasis/is-psoriasis-contagious#1
  5. https://www.medicinenet.com/is_eczema_contagious/article.htm
  6. https://www.emedicinehealth.com/norovirus/article_em.htm

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