Ear infections are the product of a bacterium or virus present in the middle ear. This infection is frequently the result of another illness such as a cold, flu, or allergy. Ear infections or otitis media are the frequent cause of earaches. These infections are often associated with infants and children but also affect adults. Infected ears are the most common cause of pediatric office visits.
Ear infections cause the nasal passages, throat, and eustachian tubes to swell and congest. Allergies, post-nasal drainage, sinus infections, colds, and adenoid problems may block fresh air from entering the middle ear causing an ear infection. Eustachian tube blockage is often the cause of an ear infection and is due to reasons such as:
Children are more prone to get ear infections because of their eustachian tubes being smaller and more horizontal than those tubes found in adults. If you smoke or endure secondhand smoke, you are putting yourself at a higher risk for an ear infection. Seasonal and year-round allergies also increase the risk of infection.
The onset of an ear infection is usually quick. The signs and symptoms of an ear infection may also be indicative of other problems, so it is vital to seek medical treatment promptly. The following are symptoms of an ear infection in children and adults:
A healthcare provider will need to know your medical history. The doctor will ask questions about your symptoms and medications that you may be taking. Your healthcare provider will use an otoscope to look into your ear for signs of infection.
It is conceivable for an ear infection to clear up without treatment. You can manage your symptoms until the infection heals. Treatment depends on the cause, severity, and medical history of a patient. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that antibiotics may not be effective against certain types of middle and outer ear infections or for ear infections caused by viruses. Prescription eardrops can treat ear infections as well as help manage the pain accompanying an ear infection.
Over-the-counter medications including acetaminophen and ibuprofen may ease the pain of an ear infection. Decongestants or antihistamines may relieve symptoms associated with the eustachian tubes. Non-prescription eardrops are available. A warm compress may reduce pain and pressure in the ear.
Ear infections rarely lead to permanent or long-term complications. However, if ignored these infections can cause impaired hearing. Preventing ear infections during the upcoming months involves avoiding common colds and other illnesses via personal hygiene. Frequent hand washing and the avoidance of crowded spaces help during the cold months of the year.