Ear infections mostly affect children, but adults are not immune. An ear infection occurs when one of your eustachian tubes becomes swollen or blocked, causing fluid to build up in your middle ear. Eustachian tubes are small tubes that run from each ear directly to the back of the throat.
Ear infections can be chronic or acute. Acute ear infections are painful but short in duration. Chronic ear infections either don’t clear up or recur many times and can cause permanent damage to the middle and inner ear. Symptoms may occur in one or both ears. Pain is usually more severe for infection in both ears.
Causes of ear infection
- Sinus infections & postnasal drip
- Upper respiratory infection
- Excess mucus
- Infected for swollen adenoids
- Changes in air altitude
- Use of pacifiers
Symptoms of ear infection
Symptoms may occur in one or both ears. Pain is usually more severe with infection in both ears. Children younger than six months who have a fever or ear infection symptoms should see a doctor. Always seek medical attention if your child has a fever higher than 39°C or severe ear pain.
- Feeling of ear fullness due to fluid or mucus
- Decreased hearing
- Ear drainage
The typical risk factors include:
– Seasonal or year-round allergies
– Smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke
– A compromised immune system
– Kids in daycare
– Sticking objects in your ear
– Exposure to water due to swimming
Prevention of ear infections
The following may reduce the risk of ear infection:
- Washing your hands often
- Avoiding overly crowded areas
- Forgoing pacifiers with infants and small children
- Breastfeeding infants
- Avoiding second-hand smoke
- Keeping immunisations up to date
Treatments for ear infections
Consult with your general practitioner if ear pain or muffled hearing persists or worsens after three days. Consult with an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) doctor if an ear infection occurs more than twice a year.
Patients diagnosed with an ear infection may initially be treated with over-the-counter pain relievers, decongestants, and antihistamines. If the symptoms persist for more than a week, and the doctor suspects that bacteria may have caused the infection, an antibiotic may be prescribed.