Duration Health



Ear pain can be due to injury/trauma to the ear or due to infection. There are 2 main types of ear infections that travelers may encounter. The first is called otitis media, which is an infection of the middle ear, or the area behind the eardrum. This can cause throbbing, sharp, or stabbing pain to the ear, which may radiate down into the throat, feeling of ear fullness, muffled hearing, fever and sometimes, if severe, a yellow discharge can drain from the ear. Another kind of infection of the ear, is called otitis externa, this is an infection of the outer ear canal, and is called “swimmer’s ear” as it is commonly caused by water that remains in the ear after swimming with allows a moist environment for bacterial growth. Symptoms of otitis externa include, itching and discomfort of the outer ear and canal, redness of the skin of the ear, pain when you tug on the earlobe, draining yellow fluid.

Ear infections can spread past the ear and into the bones behind the ear within the skull. The bony bump behind the ear, called the mastoid process, can become infected (mastoiditis). This is a serious infection requiring emergent medical attention. Ear infections can spread to the brain, causing meningitis. Ear infections can also spread to the skin of the ear and the skin surrounding the ear, in a serious infection called malignant otitis externa.


Otitis media is treated with oral antibiotics, most commonly amoxicillin or amoxicillin-clavulanate. Otitis externa is treated with ear drops, called ofloxacin.

When To Worry

Seek immediate medical care if you have any of the following:

Quick Guide

If you have

  • inner ear pain
  • drainage from ear
  • fever

You may have

otitis media

Consider using

amoxicillin-clavulanate 875 mg-125mg twice daily for 7 days

Note: if amoxicillin is available, consider using amoxicillin instead of amoxicillin-clavulanate

If you have

  • ear pain or itching
  • redness of skin of ear
  • pain when you tug on earlobe
  • no fever
  • recent swimming

You may have

otitis externa

Consider using

ofloxacin 1 drop in the affected ear 4 times per day for 7 days

If you have

  • ear pain that spreads to the face or area behind the ear
  • redness of the skin around ear
  • hearing loss
  • facial paralysis
  • dizziness
  • confusion or behavior change
  • persistent fever

You may have

retinal detachment or vitreous hemorrhage or globe rupture

You should

seek emergency medical care


Amoxicillin-clavulanate (generic for Augmentin) is an antibiotic. It can be used to treat bite wounds, skin infections, strep throat and pneumonia. This medication should be taken with food.


Ofloxacin is an antibiotic. Ofloxacin drops can be used to treat eye or ear infections.


The information provided on this site is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor, go to the emergency department, or call 911 immediately.