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Ear Infection

Ear Infection

What you need to know about
Ear Infections

Bacterial or viral infections can cause ear infections. They can affect your middle ear, which is located directly behind your eardrum, as well as your outer and inner ears. They usually go away on their own, but inflammation or fluid buildup can make them unpleasant.

Chronic or acute ear infections are both possible. Acute ear infections are uncomfortable but only last a few days. Chronic ear infections do not go away or return frequently. They can harm the middle and inner ear, but the damage is rarely permanent.

Continue reading to find out more about ear infections, including their causes, symptoms, and treatments.

What are the symptoms of an ear infection?

Ear infections can cause the following symptoms:

  • Minor ache or soreness inside your ear
  • An ongoing sensation of pressure inside your ear
  • Ear leakage with pus
  • Loss of hearing

These symptoms could last a long time or come and go. One or both ears may experience symptoms. A double ear infection, which is an infection in both ears, usually causes more pain.

The symptoms of a chronic ear infection may be less visible than those of an acute ear infection.

Symptoms of an ear infection in children

Young infants and babies may show indicators of an ear infection in addition to the symptoms present in adults, such as ear pain and drainage:

  • Stroking their ear or pulling it
  • Fever
  • Unable to respond to certain sounds
  • Regularly losing balance
  • Headache
  • Agitation or fussiness
  • Appetite suppression

Ear infections usually last three days or less, but they can linger up to a week.

Children under the age of six months should consult a doctor if they develop a fever or other ear infection symptoms. If your child develops a fever over 39°C (102°F) or significant ear pain, get medical help.

Diagnosis

A healthcare practitioner will assess your symptoms and examine your ears using an otoscope, light and magnifying lens equipment. The investigation could reveal:

  • Inside the middle ear, there may be redness, air bubbles, or pus-like fluid.
  • The middle ear is emptying fluid.
  • The eardrum is perforated.
  • An eardrum that has bulged or collapsed

Although this test is rarely uncomfortable, it may cause discomfort in certain youngsters.

Additional tests

Additional tests include:

  • Sample of fluid. If your infection has progressed, your doctor may take a sample of the fluid in your ear and analyse it to see if any antibiotic-resistant bacteria are present.
  • CT scan (computed tomography). A CT scan of your head may be ordered by your doctor to see if the infection has progressed beyond your middle ear.
  • Tests on blood. Immune function can be assessed using blood testing.
  • Tympanometry. Doctors can use tympanometry to see how well your eardrum reacts to variations in air pressure inside your ear.
  • Acoustic reflectometry. A technique for measuring sound waves. This test analyses the amount of sound reflected back from your eardrum, which is used to estimate the amount of fluid in your ear.
  • Hearing test. If you have chronic ear infections, you may need a hearing test.

Causes

Viruses and bacteria, mainly Streptococcus pneumonia and Haemophilus influenza, cause ear infections. A blockage of your Eustachian tubes causes fluid to build up in your middle ear, which causes them. Eustachian tubes are tiny tubes that connect the back of your throat to each of your ears.

The following factors can cause Eustachian tube obstruction:

Infected adenoids can also cause ear infections. Your adenoids are glands on the roof of your mouth, behind your nose, that assist your body fight infections. Infections can spread from these glands to the Eustachian tube endings nearby.

Complications

Ear infections normally go away on their own, but they can come back. Following an ear infection, these rare yet serious consequences may occur:

  • Loss of hearing
  • In children, speech or language delay is more prevalent when there is persistent fluid in the middle ear.
  • Mastoiditis – an infection of the mastoid bone in the skull.
  • Meningitis – a bacterial infection of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.
  • Eardrum rupture

When to call a doctor

Seeing a doctor if your child suffers from:

  • A fever of more than 38.8°C (102.2°F)
  • Your ear is leaking pus, discharge, or fluid.
  • Symptoms are worsening
  • More than 2 to 3 days of symptoms
  • Loss of hearing
  • Additional troubling symptoms
  • If your symptoms linger more than 2 or 3 days, or if you have significant discomfort or a fever, you should see a doctor.

Treatment

While most mild ear infections heal on their own, the following treatments may be beneficial:

Home treatment

These approaches will help you get rid of the symptoms of a minor ear infection:

  • Warm the affected ear with a warm towel.
  • Take ibuprofen or Paracetamol as an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever.
  • To ease pain, use OTC or prescription ear drops.
  • Use pseudoephedrine an over-the-counter decongestant.
  • Sleeping on the afflicted ear is not recommended.

Medical treatment

Consult a doctor if your symptoms worsen or do not improve. If your ear infection is bacterial, chronic, or not improving, they may prescribe antibiotics.

Antibiotics are ineffective in the treatment of viral infections.

Medical treatment in children

When treating ear infections in children, doctors frequently use a wait-and-see approach to avoid over-prescribing medicines, which can lead to antibiotic resistance.

If your child’s symptoms are severe or do not improve within two to three days, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics. Alternatively, they may issue a prescription but advise you to wait 2 to 3 days to see whether your child’s symptoms improve.

It is critical that you complete your entire prescription. Amoxicillin is usually prescribed for a week or ten days.

You should not give aspirin to children unless their doctor has prescribed it. Reyes’ syndrome is an uncommon condition that causes brain and liver damage. Aspirin is an avoidable risk factor.

Surgery

If your ear infection does not respond to standard medical therapy or if you have multiple ear infections in a short period of time, surgery may be a possibility.

Ear tubes are commonly used to allow fluid to drain from your ears. Your eardrums are surgically inserted with these tubes. They fall out eventually, and the holes close up. Surgical closure of these perforations is sometimes required.

Infections with tubes in place will cause drainage rather than pain, pressure, or fever as symptoms. Drops can be used to treat certain ear infections.

Another approach is a myringotomy operation. A doctor makes a small hole in your eardrum to allow fluid to drain and ease pain during this surgery. Within a few days, the incision will heal.

Surgical excision of your adenoids may be advised in cases of swollen adenoids.

Risk Factors

Because young children’s Eustachian tubes are small and narrow, they are more susceptible to ear infections. Approximately 80% of youngsters will suffer an acute ear infection at some stage.

Bottle-fed babies are also more likely to get ear infections than their breastfed counterparts.

Other factors that raise the risk of an ear infection include:

  • Altitude changes
  • Changes in temperature and humidity
  • Exposure to cigarette smoke
  • Dummy use
  • Recent illness or ear infection
  • Being male
  • Low birth weight
  • Lack of access to healthcare
  • Being in nursery

What may be done to avoid ear infections?

The following habits may help to prevent ear infections:

  • Frequently wash your hands
  • Avoiding densely populated regions
  • Dummies are not used with infants and small children
  • Breastfeeding children
  • Avoiding passive smoking
  • Maintaining current immunizations

Bacteria or viruses in your middle ear, which is the region of your ear behind your eardrum, cause ear infections. Most ear infections go away after three days, but severe infections may require antibiotic treatment.

Children are the most susceptible to ear infections. If you or your kid develops significant discomfort, a fever over 38.8°C (102.2°F), ear discharge, or other troubling symptoms, you should consult a doctor.

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