Are Ear Infections Contagious? What You Need to Know

side profile sick female with ear pain touching painful head


Did you know that 5 out of 6 children experience ear infections by the time they are 3 years old?

It turns out, these painful conditions are more common than most people thought. If you or your loved one is struggling with ear pain, you may be wondering are ear infections contagious?

Here’s a hint: they’re not!

Keep reading to learn about what causes ear infections. We’re here to dispel some common myths. Let’s get into it!

What Causes Ear Infections?

An ear infection refers to the bacterial or viral infection just behind the eardrum. The inflammation and fluid build-up can cause unpleasant and painful feelings.

When the eustachian tube gets swollen or blocked, fluid accumulates within the middle ear. Swelling or blocking can occur for a variety of reasons including:

  • Common colds
  • Sinus infections
  • Excess mucus
  • Allergies
  • Smoking or exposure to cigarette smoke
  • Swollen adenoids
  • Air pressure changes
  • Climate or altitude changes

Children are especially prone to ear infections because they have smaller and shorter eustachian tubes. This risk tends to decrease after age 4 or 5.

What Are Common Ear Infection Symptoms?

While ear infection symptoms vary from person to person, there are a few common symptoms to look out for. These include:

  • mild-to-moderate ear pain or discomfort
  • increased feeling of pressure or tension in the ear
  • pus-like release or drainage
  • temporary hearing loss
  • dizziness

In young infants or children who may not be able to verbalize these symptoms, you might notice increased fussiness or crying. You might also notice your child tugging or pulling at the ear.

Additionally, if your child shows feverish symptoms, this may also be a sign he or she has an infection worth checking out.

Unsure about the severity of the symptoms? It’s best practice to visit your local urgent care for assessment and treatment as needed.

Are Ear Infections Contagious?

Sure, it’s frustrating when your coworker has a cold and you just know you’re the next person to start coughing and sneezing.

If cold symptoms seem easy to catch, are ear infections contagious?

Inner ear infections (the ones in the middle ear) are not contagious. Many of these infections can actually just disappear on their own.

Outer ear infections, which can occur after swimming, are also not contagious. Many just require antibiotic eardrop treatment.

With that said, even though the infections themselves are not contagious, the illnesses that can lead to these infections are. Be mindful of that when considering your child’s daycare or school environment.

Final Thoughts on Ear Infections & Treatment

Even though they are uncomfortable, ear infections are relatively common and easy to treat.

If you are in the Starkville, Mississippi region and considered about you or your child’s health, be sure to contact us today. We are here for all your needs and concerns.

Ear conditions are usually caused by viruses or bacteria. But the question is, are ear infections contagious? Click here to learn more about them.