Have you recently been diagnosed with an ear infection? Also referred to as acute otitis media, the ear infection is an infection of the middle ear. To explain, the middle ear is the air-filled space behind the eardrum where the small vibrating bones of the ear are situated.
A survey conducted among elderly people in Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz bin Musa’ed Al Saud Hospital in Saudi Arabia revealed that 9.4 % of them suffered from otitis media. However, it is to be noted that children are more prone to get ear infections than adults. Let’s delve deep into ear infections, their symptoms, causes, and treatment.
Symptoms Of Ear Infection: Essential Insights
The symptoms of ear infection vary among children and adults.
- In the case of children, some of the symptoms include ear pain, fever, and fussiness or irritability. You may also notice that your child is rubbing or tugging at an ear and they may also face difficulty sleeping.
- When it comes to elders, the common symptoms include ear pain, trouble hearing, and drainage of fluid from the ear.
Causes of ear infection
Middle ear infections generally occur due to the malfunctioning of the eustachian tube. In simple terms, the eustachian tube is a canal that connects your middle ear with the throat area. The function of the eustachian tube is to equalize the pressure between your outer ear and the middle ear.
When this tube fails to work properly, it leads to a blockage of normal drainage of fluid from the middle ear. As a result, it causes a build-up of fluid behind your eardrum. The inability of the fluid to drain facilitates the growth of bacteria and viruses in your ear and it finally leads to acute otitis media. The major reasons due to which the Eustachian tube may not work properly include:
- A cold or allergy that causes swelling and congestion of the lining of your nose, throat, and eustachian tube. This swelling blocks the normal drainage of fluids from your ear.
- A malformation of your eustachian tube.
In the case of children, it is necessary to consult a doctor if the symptoms do not go away in two to three days. In the case of adults, the recommended waiting period is one to two weeks.
The treatment starts with the doctor examining your child and asking him/her about the symptoms. As part of the examination, the doctor will look inside your child’s ear, check the eardrum, and see whether there is pus in the middle ear.
For your information, the human body’s immune system has the ability to fight middle ear infections on its own. In some cases, antibiotics are not required for treating middle ear infections. However, if the infection becomes severe or lasts more than 2 to 3 days, then antibiotics need to be given immediately.
In treating middle ear infections, doctors generally adopt either of the below two approaches.
- Watchful waiting
- Delayed prescribing
1. Watchful waiting
In the case of your child, the doctor may recommend watching and waiting for 2 to 3 days. This is done to check whether your child needs antibiotics. During this period, your immune system gets enough time to fight off the infection. If there is no improvement in your child’s symptoms, the doctor may prescribe an antibiotic.
2. Delayed prescribing
The doctor may prescribe an antibiotic for your child. However, you may be asked to wait for 2 to 3 days before filling the prescription. It is because there are chances that your kid may recover on their own and there may not be the need for an antibiotic.
How to prevent ear infections?
Practice the following tips so that they cut down the risk of ear infections.
- Make sure that you use earplugs while driving, swimming, showering, or bathing
- Dry your ears properly whenever you are exposed to water
- Stay away from smoking and passive smoking
- Never insert cotton swabs inside the ear canal
- Wash your hands frequently and clean properly with soap and warm water. This is done to prevent the spread of upper respiratory infections that ultimately end up in ear infections.
- Keep yourself up-to-date on immunizations
Also read: 8 Common Eye Infections And Their Treatment
Hope the article offers valuable information on ear infection, its symptoms, causes, and treatment. To be on the safe side, follow the above tips so that you can keep an ear infection at bay.