Carefree M.D. Blog

Is an Ear Infection Contagious? [Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments]

Carefree MD

June 09, 2021 | Blog

Having an ear infection is painful enough. But, having to worry about infecting others makes it even more of a nuisance. Find out whether ear infections are contagious, and what you should do if you have one.

What Are Ear Infections?

Ear infections are viral or bacterial illnesses, usually in your middle ear. Usually, you can recognize an ear infection by a pain in your ear that lasts a couple of days.

While adults are just as likely to get an ear infection, it’s usually prevalent among children.

Generally, ear infections clear up on their own. However, for severe cases, you may need medical intervention.

One of the most common causes of ear infections is the common cold. Which is famous for being highly contagious. That’s why a lot of people wonder whether their ear infection caused by a cold is contagious or not.

How Do Ear Infections Happen?

Ear infections happen when your eustachian tubes get swollen or blocked. These are narrow tubes that run from your middle ear to the back of your throat. And when you have nasal congestion, bacteria and viruses can easily spread to your middle ear.

The most common reason your eustachian tubes get blocked is the result of a cold. However, swollen adenoids, allergies, sinus infections, smoking, and changes in air pressure can also trigger it.

Symptoms of an Ear Infection:

  • Pain in the ear
  • Headaches
  • Feeling pressure in your ear
  • Pus-like release or drainage
  • Temporary hearing loss
  • Dizziness

Types of Ear Infections

While the most common type of ear infection happens in your middle ear, there are actually three different types of ear infections:

  1. External ear infection: Also known as swimmer’s ear.
  2. Middle ear infection: Also known as otitis media.
  3. Inner ear infection: Also known as labyrinthitis.

Are Ear Infections Contagious?

You’ll be glad to hear that ear infections aren’t contagious. However, a cold, flu, or sinusitis is. Since all of these can cause ear infections, they can easily spread from person to person or surface to surface.

Influenza spreads through droplets of saliva people produce when they talk, sneeze, or cough. If you inhale these droplets, you could contract the virus, which could end up giving you an infection.

Can You Infect Others with an Ear Infection?

Since ear infections aren’t contagious, you can’t infect others with them. Not even by sharing earphones or earpieces.

However, if your ear infection happened due to a cold or the flu, you can infect others with those bacteria and viruses.

How to Treat an Ear Infection

Usually, ear infections clear up after a couple of days on their own. It’s important to monitor your symptoms to see how well your ear heals.

If your symptoms don’t improve within a couple of days, a doctor can prescribe antibiotics or ear drops. For severe or chronic cases, your doctor may recommend surgery to drain excess fluid from your middle ear.

Preventing Ear Infections

Since ear infections aren’t contagious, there’s not a lot you can do to prevent them specifically. However, avoiding germs and other sick people can help lower your risk of catching a cold or the flu, which could result in an ear infection.

Common preventive measures include:

  • Washing your hands regularly
  • Covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough
  • Avoid sharing utensils with someone who’s sick
  • Avoid smoking
  • Get the flu vaccine
  • Stay at home if you have a fever 

If you’re worried about an external ear infection (swimmer’s ear), avoid swimming or use ear protectors when you go in the water.

Talk to a Doctor About Your Ear Infection or Cold

While an ear infection usually goes away quickly, your symptoms from a cold or flu can become serious. And if your ear still hurts after a couple of days, it’s definitely worth seeing a doctor about it.

And you don’t even need to leave your house to talk to a doctor.

With Carefree MD after you activate your card, you can talk to a board-certified physician about your symptoms, get prescriptions sent to your local pharmacy when medically necessary, and receive personalized advice on treatment options for just $17.95 a month. 

All you need in order to access this is a Carefree MD card and an internet connection. Sign up today! 


The Carefree MD blog is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The text and pictures within the content are intended for information purposes only. Readers should consult with a licensed doctor or healthcare professional before seeking treatment.

The Carefree MD Card is not insurance and Carefree MD is not an insurance provider.