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One of the most common illness in children and adults develop in monsoon is an ear infection. Ear infection needs to be monitored closely, as, over time, it can lead to severe hearing damage. The best doctor to diagnose an ear infection is your ENT specialist nearby. To know more about ear infection at an individual diagnosis level, read this article.

Ear Infection

An Ear Infection is medically termed as Acute Otitis Media. When viruses or bacteria enter the middle ear, the air-filled space behind the eardrum, they cause ear infections. These viruses or bacteria make Eustachian tubes to become swollen or blocked causing severe pain because of inflammation and fluid build-up. The Eustachian tubes are small tubes from the ears to the throat.

Although ear infections are a common problem in young children, they can affect anyone of any age. They may affect suddenly and disappear in a couple of days, or they can recur frequently and for extended periods of time. Ear infection can be chronic especially for children. Chronic ear infections either do not heal or reoccur repeatedly, resulting in permanent damage to the middle ear. Ear infection treatments include pain relievers, antibiotics and ear tubes placement.

Why are children more prone to Ear infections?

Ear infections are more common in young children due to their short and narrow Eustachian tubes. Bottle-fed infants have a higher rate of ear infections than breastfed infants. These infections are also more common in children who drink from a bottle while lying on their back. Milk may enter the Eustachian tube, increasing the likelihood of an ear infection. Water in the ears will not cause an ear infection unless the eardrum is damaged.

Causes (Or) Risk factors

Following are the risk factors that cause Ear Infection:

  • Bacteria & Viruses
  • Bottle feeding to babies
  • Cleft palate
  • Frequent colds
  • Lack of hygiene
  • Excess mucus
  • Young age
  • Sinus infections
  • Seasonal allergies
  • Exposure to tobacco smoke
  • Air pollution 
  • Chronic illnesses
  • Infected or swollen adenoids 
  • Altitude changes
  • Family history of ear infections
  • Birth defect in Eustachian tube function

The occurrence of ear infection symptoms is usually rapid; they may persist or come and go. Symptoms may manifest in either one or both ears. Pain is usually more severe when both ears are infected. Chronic ear infection symptoms may be less noticeable than acute ear infection symptoms.

Symptoms of Ear Infections

  1. Ear pain and pressure especially when lying down
  2. Trouble sleeping
  3. More crying & Fussiness in babies
  4. Babies rubbing or tugging at ear(s)
  5. Trouble hearing & responding 
  6. Loss of balance
  7. Fever 
  8. Fluid from the ear
  9. Headache
  10. Loss of appetite

Note: If the pressure from the fluid build-up becomes too high, it can rupture the eardrum, causing fluid to drain from the ear. A child with an eardrum rupture may experience dizziness or nausea or ringing or buzzing in the ear. Young children who have a fever or symptoms of an ear infection need to see a doctor immediately.

When to see a doctor for Ear Infection?

The signs and symptoms of an ear infection can be indicative of a variety of conditions. It is vital to receive an accurate diagnosis and timely treatment.

Call your child’s doctor if:

  • Symptoms last more than a day
  • Symptoms show up in a child less than 6 months of age
  • Severe ear pain 
  • Sleeplessness  
  • Fluid discharge from the ear
  • Baby is Weak and Crying 
  • Fever 

Diagnosis 

  • Your ENT specialist will examine your ears with an otoscope, which has a light and magnifying lens and is used to look for redness, air bubbles, fluid draining from the middle ear, perforation in the eardrum, and bulged or collapsed eardrum.
  • If your infection has progressed, your doctor may take a sample of the fluid inside your ear and test it to see if any antibiotic-resistant bacteria are present.
  • They may also demand a CT scan of your head to see if the infection has spread further than the middle ear.
  • Finally, if you suffer from chronic ear infections, you may require a hearing test.

Note: When doctors talk about an ear infection, they usually mean otitis media, which is the most common type of ear infection.

Treatment

Treatment of ear infections depends on age, severity of the infection, the nature of the infection.

In general: 

  • Because ear infections mostly resolve on their own, treatment may begin with pain management and monitoring the problem.
  • Your healthcare provider may recommend medication to relieve pain.
  • If your ear infection has not improved and has worsened, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic. Ear infections in children under the age of two usually necessitate the use of an antibiotic.
  • Surgery may be an option if your ear infection does not clear up with standard medical treatments or if you have a line of ear infections in a short period of time. In the case of enlarged adenoids, surgical removal of the adenoids may also be required.

Note: It’s important to see your healthcare provider to make sure the ear infection has healed or if you or your child has ongoing pain or discomfort. 

Complications

Serious hearing problems may develop with ongoing ear infections or frequent infections, or with fluid build-up behind the eardrum, However, most ear infections don’t cause long-term complications.

Possible complications include:

  • Impaired hearing
  • Speech or developmental delays
  • Spread of infection
  • Tearing of the eardrum
  • Speech delay in children
  • Mastoiditis  & Meningitis 
  • Eardrum rupture

Prevention

Tips to reduce the risk of developing ear infections:

  1. Prevent frequent colds 
  2. Avoid second-hand smoke
  3. Breastfeed your baby
  4. Keep your baby upright for bottle feeding
  5. Get vaccinated
  6. Maintain hygiene
  7. keeping immunizations up-to-date
  8. Dry your ears after swimming
  9. Quit smoking
  10. Control allergies
  11. Keep an eye on mouth breathing & snoring
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