An ear infection is caused by a viral or bacterial infection of the middle ear, which is the part of the ear that is directly behind the eardrum. Otitis media is characterized by inflammation as well as fluid accumulation in the middle ear, which can be extremely uncomfortable.
Acute ear infections also known as acute otitis media are more common than chronic infections, but both are possible. The discomfort of acute ear infections lasts only a few days, and they are not contagious. Chronic types of infections can cause irreversible damage to the middle and inner ear.
Despite the fact that these infections are more common in children than in adults, there is a risk of developing middle ear infections as an adult. Adult ear infections are usually symptoms of a more serious health problem. In contrast, infections in children are frequently simple and quickly resolved.
Middle Ear infections can be caused by bacteria and viruses. It is a common complication of a cold or other upper respiratory infection. Small microorganisms or viruses can enter the middle ear through the Eustachian tube (which is found in each ear). This tube connects the middle ear to the back of the throat. It is also possible for the Eustachian tube to expand as a result of viruses or bacteria. As a result of the swelling, the tube may become clogged, causing fluids to pool in the middle ear rather than being flushed away.
Because children’s Eustachian tubes are shorter and have a lower slope than adults, this situation is made worse. This physical difference makes it more likely for these tubes to clog and obstruct the drainage. It is possible for a bacteria or virus to infect the enclosed fluid in the ear, causing discomfort.
The fluid that accumulates in your middle ear as a result of an obstructed Eustachian tube is responsible for the development of an infection in the ear.
Following are the factors that contribute to Eustachian tube obstruction:
· Allergies, colds, and sinus inflammation
· Excess mucus, diseased adenoids, or enlarged adenoids
· Alterations in air pressure
Since babies’ and toddler’s Eustachian tubes are narrow and small, they are more prone to the condition. A toddler ear infection is thus more prevalent as compared to an adult ear infection.
Factors that can increase the chances of getting an infection in the ear are as follows:
· Changes in altitude
· Changes in the climate
· Cigarette smoke exposure
· Recent illness
Following are some of the common ear infection symptoms:
Ear pain: It is a noticeable symptom in adults and children. Look for indicators of pain in infants who are too young to communicate, such as touching or tugging ears, screaming more than usual, sleeping problems, or appearing irritable.
Appetite loss: This is more common in young children, especially during bottle feedings. As the youngster swallows, the pressure in the middle ear shifts, causing more pain and a decreased willingness to eat.
Irritability: It can be caused by any type of persistent pain and could be considered among important signs of ear infection in a baby or toddler.
Poor sleep: When the baby or toddler is resting down, the pressure in the ear may worsen, making the pain worse.
Fever: Infection can induce fevers ranging from 100°F to 104°F. Fever could be one of the signs of infection in babies.
Drainage: Fluid other than earwax may leak from the ear. This could indicate a punctured eardrum.
Hearing loss: Middle ear bones connect to nerves that convey electrical signals (i.e. sound) to the brain. The flow of electrical signals via the inner ear bones is slowed by fluid behind the eardrums.
An otoscope, which is a piece of equipment that uses light and magnifying lenses to examine your ears, will be used by your healthcare professional to diagnose an ear infection. The examination of the ear reveals the following information:
· Air bubbles or redness inside the middle ear
· Fluid leakage
· A perforation (hole) in the eardrum
· Swollen eardrum
If your infection advances, your doctor may recommend that you have a sample of the fluid in your ear taken and analyzed to determine whether it contains antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
In order to determine whether the infection has spread beyond the middle ear, your doctor may recommend computed tomography (CT) scan of your head.
If you suffer from chronic types of infections, you may be required to undergo a hearing evaluation.
In case of severe signs of ear infection, Tympanometry is performed. This test uses air pressure to look for fluid in the middle ear. This is not a hearing test. If you or your kid has had long-term or recurrent infections or fluid in the middle ears that are not draining, your healthcare practitioner may arrange a hearing test by an audiologist to detect probable hearing loss.
Ear infection treatment comprises the following approaches to help relieve its symptoms:
· Place a warm cloth on the ear being affected.
· Take over-the-counter pain relievers.
· To ease pain, use over-the-counter or prescription ear drops.
· Take over-the-counter decongestants.
If a baby under the age of two develops ear infection symptoms, antibiotics will most likely be prescribed.
If you’ve been prescribed antibiotics, it’s critical that you finish the entire course.
If your ear infection does not respond to standard medical therapy or if you have multiple ear infections in a short period of time, surgery may be a possibility. Tubes are commonly inserted in the ears to allow fluid to drain.
Surgical excision of the adenoids may be required in cases of swollen adenoids.
When to see a doctor
Schedule an appointment with your doctor if you feel any symptoms. If you delay treatment for an ear infection, you run the risk of developing irreversible hearing loss and the infection going to spread to other parts of the head. Immediately see a doctor if you have earaches, swelling around the ear, and high temperature. If you treat your ear infection properly, you should be able to avoid any negative consequences.
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