What is an Ear Infection?
An ear infection (also called acute otitis media) is an infection of the middle part of the ear, the air-filled space behind the eardrum that contains the small vibrating bones of the ear. Ear infection can be painful inside the ear because of inflammation and fluid buildup in the middle ear. Ear infections can be chronic or acute. Acute ear infections are painful inside the ear but short. Also, chronic diseases are painful inside the ear but permanent.
What Causes an Ear Infection?
An ear infection may occur when one of your Eustachian tubes becomes swollen or blocked, causing fluid to build up in the middle part of the ear. These tubes are small tubes that run from each ear directly to the back of the throat. Causes of Eustachian tube blockage may include:-
- Sinus infections
- Excess mucus
- Infected or swollen adenoids
- Changes in air pressure
Risk factors for Ear Infection
However, these ear infections may occur most commonly in young children because they have short and narrow Eustachian tubes. And bottle-fed infants also have a higher incidence of ear infections than their breastfed counterparts. Some possible factors that increase the risk of expanding an ear infection are:-
- Changes in altitude
- Changes in climate
- Highly exposure to cigarette smoke
- Pacifier use
- Recent illness and ear infections
What are the symptoms of an Ear Infection?
Some of the most common symptoms of ear infections may include:-
- Mild pain and discomfort inside the inner ear
- A pressurized feeling inside the ear that persists
- Fussiness in young infants
- Hearing loss problems
However, these common types of symptoms might persist or come and go. Also, these symptoms may occur in one or both ears. Internal pain is usually more severe with a double ear infection (infection in both ears). However, symptoms of chronic ear infections may be less noticeable than those of acute ear infections. In conclusion, children younger than six months with a fever or ear infection should see a health consultant. Most importantly, seek medical attention daily if your child has a fever higher than 102°F (39°C) or severe pain inside the ear.
How is an Ear Infection Diagnosed?
Your health consultant will examine your ears with an instrument called an otoscope that has a light and magnifying lens. An examination may reveal:-
- Redness, air bubbles, or pus-like fluid in the middle part of the ear
- Fluid draining from the middle ear
- A perforation in the eardrum, and
- A bulging or collapsed eardrum
However, if your infection is advanced, your health consultant may take a sample of the fluid inside your ear and test it to determine whether certain antibiotic-resistant bacteria are present. Medical professionals also order a head CT scan to determine if the infection has spread beyond the middle ear. Finally, you may need a hearing test if you suffer from chronic ear infection problems.
How are Ear Infections treated?
Mostly, mild ear infections clear up without intervention. Most importantly, some of the given methods are effective in relieving the symptoms of a mild ear infection:-
- Apply warm water and cloth to the affected ear
- Take over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication like ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol).
- Use over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription ear drops to relieve pain. Shop for ear drops.
- Take OTC decongestants like pseudoephedrine (Sudafed).
However, if your signs and symptoms are getting worse or don’t improve, you should schedule an appointment with your medical consultant. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics if your ear infection is chronic or doesn’t appear to be improving. A health consultant will likely give antibiotics if a child under 2 has ear infection symptoms.
Surgery may be possible if your ear infection isn’t reduced with the usual medical treatments or if you have many ear infections over a temporary period. Most often, these tubes are placed in the ears to allow fluid to drain out.