An ear infection happens when a bacterial or viral infection affects the middle ear, which is the area of the ear immediately beyond the eardrum. Due to inflammation and fluid accumulation in the middle ear, ear infections can be unpleasant. Chronic and acute ear infections are both possible. Acute ear infections are unpleasant but only last a few days.
Chronic ear infections do not go away and reoccur frequently. Chronic ear infections can harm the middle and inner ear permanently.
What causes an ear infection?
An ear infection develops when one of your Eustachian tubes swells or becomes clogged, causing fluid to accumulate in your middle ear. The eustachian tubes are tiny tubes that connect the back of the throat to each ear. The following are some of the causes of eustachian tube obstruction:
Infected or swollen adenoids (tissue near the tonsils that trap harmful bacteria and viruses)
changes in air pressure
Risk factors for ear infection
Because young children’s eustachian tubes are small and thin, they are more prone to ear infections. Bottle-fed infants also had a greater rate of ear infections than breastfed newborns.
Other variables that enhance the likelihood of getting an ear infection include:
Changes in elevation and weather
Cigarette smoke exposure
What are the symptoms of ear infections?
The following are some of the most frequent symptoms of an ear infection:
Mild discomfort or soreness inside the ear
A persistent sense of pressure inside the ear
Discomfort in newborns
Hearing loss appears to be caused by ear leakage that resembles pus.
These symptoms may be persistent or intermittent. Symptoms might appear in either one or both ears. With a double ear infection, the discomfort is generally more intense (infection of both ears). Chronic ear infections may have fewer evident symptoms than acute ear infections.
Babies under the age of six months who have fever or an ear infection should consult a doctor. If your kid develops a temperature above 39°C or significant ear discomfort, get medical treatment immediately.
How are ear infections diagnosed?
Your doctor will check your ears with an otoscope, which has a light and a magnifying lens. The investigation may reveal:
Inside the middle ear, there may be redness, air bubbles, or pus-like fluid.
Fluid drainage from the middle ear
perforation of the eardrum
eardrum enlarged or collapsed
If you get an infection, your doctor may take a sample of the fluid within your ear and test it to see if specific antibiotic-resistant bacteria are present.
They may also request a computed tomography (CT) scan of your head to see if the infection has gone beyond the middle ear.
Finally, if you have persistent ear infections, you may require a hearing test.
How are ear infections treated?
Most minor ear infections resolve on their own. Some of the following treatments are useful in treating moderate otitis media symptoms:
Warm a washcloth and place it on the afflicted ear.
Take ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen, which are both over-the-counter pain medications (Tylenol). Look up ibuprofen or acetaminophen on the internet.
To alleviate discomfort, use ear drops, either prescription or over-the-counter. Purchase ear drops.
Pseudoephedrine and other over-the-counter decongestants should be used (Sudafed). Amazon sells pseudoephedrine.
If your symptoms increase or do not improve, you should consult your doctor. If the ear infection is persistent or does not appear to be improving, they may prescribe antibiotics.
If a kid under the age of two exhibits symptoms of an ear infection, the doctor will almost certainly prescribe antibiotics.
If you have been prescribed antibiotics, it is critical that you complete the whole course.
If normal medical therapies do not clear up an ear infection or if you have many ear infections in a short period of time, surgery may be a possibility. Tubes are commonly put in the ears to allow fluid to drain.
In situations when the adenoids are enlarged, surgical excision of the adenoids may be required.
What can be expected in the long term?
Ear infections typically go away on their own, although they might reoccur. Following an ear infection, the following rare yet significant consequences may occur:
loss of hearing
Delayed speech or language development in children
Mastoiditis is a kind of parasitic infection (inflammation of the mastoid bone in the skull)
Meningitis is a kind of illness that affects the brain (a bacterial infection of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord)
How can ear infections be prevented?
The following habits may minimize your chances of getting an ear infection:
Wash your hands frequently.
Avoid congested locations.
When it comes to newborns and toddlers, it’s time to say goodbye to pacifiers.
Stay away from passive smoking.