Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment of Ear Infections
What exactly is an ear infection?
Ear infections can be bacterial or viral. They can occur in the middle ear, right behind the eardrum, and the exterior and inner ear. They frequently disappear on their own, but they can be unpleasant owing to inflammation or fluid buildup.
Ear infections, whether chronic or acute, are both conceivable. Fortunately, acute ear infections only last a couple of days. Chronic ear infections either don’t go away or come back. They can cause irreversible damage to the middle and inner ear in rare situations.
Please continue reading to learn more about ear infections, including their causes, symptoms, and treatment options.
What are the signs of an ear infection?
Common ear infection symptoms include
little earache or discomfort
A continuous sensation of ear pressure
ear discharge that looks like pus
loss of hearing
These symptoms may be persistent or intermittent. Symptoms can appear in either or both ears. The pain is frequently more severe if you have a double ear infection, which means an infection in both ears.
A chronic ear infection’s symptoms may be milder than an acute ear infection.
What Causes Ear Infections, and What Enhances Your Chances of Getting One?
Viruses or bacteria, in particular, cause ear infections. Streptococcus pneumoniae or Haemophilus influenza. They are frequently caused by a blockage of the Eustachian tubes, resulting in fluid buildup in the middle ear. The Eustachian tubes are tiny tubes that run directly from your ears to the back of your throat.
Some of the causes of Eustachian tube occlusion are as follows:
Infections of the sinuses
a lot of mucous
atmospheric pressure variations
Ear infections can also be caused by infected adenoids. Adenoids are infection-fighting glands located on the roof of the mouth, behind the nose. These glands can transmit infections to other parts of the body.
Ear Infection Risk Factors
Other factors that enhance the likelihood of an ear infection are:
Differences in height
Temperature and humidity variations
Cigarette smoke exposure
Illness or ear infection that has recently occurred
Being a man
Birth weight is too light.
Inadequate access to health care
Attending a daycare facility
Possible Ear Infection Complications
Ear infections are frequently self-limiting, although they can reoccur. Following an ear infection, the following severe yet rare consequences may occur:
Children’s speech delays are more likely when chronic fluid in the middle ear.
Mastoiditis (an infection of the mastoid process in the skull)
Infection of the meninges (a bacterial infection of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord)
How Can Ear Infections Get Better?
The majority of mild ear infections resolve on their own, although the following treatments may be beneficial:
Treatment at home
These treatments can effectively alleviate the symptoms of a minor ear infection:
Apply a warm compress to the afflicted ear.
Take ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen, both over-the-counter pain medicines (Tylenol).
To ease pain, use over-the-counter or prescription ear drops.
Pseudoephedrine and other over-the-counter decongestants (Sudafed).
Sleeping on the afflicted ear should be avoided.
You should consult a doctor if your symptoms worsen or do not improve. They may recommend medications if your ear infection is bacterial, chronic, or does not appear to be improving.
Antibiotics are ineffective against viral infections.
If your ear infection does not clear up with typical medical treatments or if you have several ear infections in a short period, surgery may be a possibility.
Ear tubes are frequently inserted in your ears to help drain the fluid. These tubes are surgically implanted in the eardrum. They eventually fall out, and the holes close up. These holes must sometimes be surgically closed.
Another alternative is a myringotomy. Your eardrum will be punctured by a medical professional in order to allow fluid to drain and alleviate your discomfort. The incision will heal in a few days.
When larger polyps are found, surgical excision of the polyps may be advised.
When should you see a doctor?
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (CDC) advises that your child consult a doctor if they:
Fever of more than 102.2°F
Pus, discharge, or fluid from the ear
Symptoms that continue more than two to three days
other alarming signs
Adults should consult a doctor if their symptoms linger more than two or three days or if they experience significant pain or fever.
How Are Ear Infections Identified?
A medical practitioner will analyze your symptoms and inspect your ears with an otoscope with a light and a magnifying lens. You may observe the following during the exam:
Middle ear redness, air bubbles, or pus-like fluid
Drainage of fluid from the middle ear
a rupture of the eardrum
an eardrum that has bulged or collapsed
This exam is rarely painful. However, it may be unpleasant for some youngsters.
Among the additional tests are:
A sample of fluid. A sample of ear fluid may be taken and tested for antibiotic-resistant bacteria by your doctor if the infection has advanced.
CT (computed tomography) scan A CT scan of your head may be ordered by your doctor to check if the infection has progressed beyond your middle ear.
Blood tests are performed. Blood tests may be used to evaluate your immune system.
Tympanometry. Doctors can use tympanometry to assess how well your eardrum responds to changes in air pressure in your ear.
Acoustic reflectometry determines the quantity of fluid in your ear by measuring how many sounds bounce off your eardrum.
You hear evaluation. If you have chronic ear infections, you may require a hearing test.
How Are Ear Infections Avoided?
Ear infections can be avoided by taking the following precautions:
Hands should be washed often.
Avoid crowded places.
Pacifiers should not be used with newborns or young children.
Infants that are breastfed
Preventing secondhand smoke
Maintain current vaccinations.
Most ear infections resolve within three days, but severe infections may necessitate antibiotic treatment.
Ear infections are prevalent among children. If you or your kid experiences significant discomfort, a fever of more than 102.2°F, ear drainage, or other concerning symptoms, you should consult a doctor.