Details on ear infection, its symptoms and prevention in adults and infants and children are given.
An ear infection can quickly spread through the blood stream and make you very ill. The ear is composed of 3 parts: the inner ear, the middle ear and the outer ear. The ear infection can be any of these 3 ear parts and one part can infect the others. You can have inner ear infection or middle ear infection or outer ear infection with different symptoms or similar symptoms.
In the following table, ear problems and their possible causes are listed.
Symptoms of Ear Infection
- Itching and feeling of fullness (symptoms of swimmer's ear).
- The ear canal may be swollen (symptoms of swimmer's ear).
- Unlike a middle ear infection, swimmer's ear pain is worse when you chew and when you press on the tag in front of the ear or wiggle the earlobe.
- Hearing loss.
Symptoms of Swimmer's Ear
- Fullness of the ears
- Drainage/discharge from the ears
- Swollen lymph nodes.
- Hearing loss
- Pain extending to the neck, face or side of the head.
Causes of Ear Infection
What can cause an ear infection? The following table gives various ear symptoms and their possible causes or reasons.
Earache & fever, feeling of fullness in the ear
Ear infection, middle ear infection, ear injuries, cold, teeth problems, sinus infection, changes in air pressure in plane when ascending or descending. A bacterial or viral infection of the fluid in the middle ear causes ear infection.
Excess earwax, serious otitis media
Excess earwax, ear infection, dental problem, medication such as antibiotics and large amounts of aspirin and drinking excessive drinking alcohol.
Pain when ear is wiggled, itching or burning in the ear.
Discharge from the ears
Swimmer's ear, eardrum rupture
Feeling of something in the ear
Objects in the ears
Itching in the ears
Common ear infections occur in the middle ear or the ear canal. A middle ear infection (otitis media) usually starts when a cold causes the Eustachian tube (the tube that connects throat and middle ear) to swell and close. Otitis media affects the area inside the eardrum and all the small bones. When the tube closes, fluids seeps into the ear and bacteria starts to grow. As the body fights the infection, pressure builds up, causing extremely sharp earache with or without fever. Left untreated, the pressure can cause the eardrum to rupture (perforation).
Multiple ruptures may lead to hearing loss. The perforation of eardrum will release all pressure relieving pain. This means loss of hearing and fluid discharge. This kind of ear infection is common in infants due to the position of the baby while feeding allowing milk bacteria to grow in the auditory tube.
Otitis media with effusion (serous otitis) is a collection of fluid in the ear that often remains after ear infection. Effusion is not a cause of concern and may not require a treatment unless there is a hearing loss or it lasts longer than 3 months.
A buildup of pressure in the middle ear can also be due to a change in altitude, causing earache.
Swimmer's Ear (Otitis External)
When water is trapped in the ear canal, bacteria that normally inhabit there multiply, causing infection and irritation of the ear canal. The infection may progress to the outer ear. The infection of the outer ear is common in swimmers, so this condition is known as Swimmer's ear. Since the cause of the infection is water trapped in the ear canal, bathing or showering may also cause this common infection.
Earache in Children, Infant Ear Infection
Children usually have earaches due to an infection in their middle ear because they have shorter Eustachian tubes. You should suspect an ear infection if
- the child becomes irritable & crying.
- the child pulls or rubs ears quite often.
- there is a fluid discharge from the ears.
- there is excessive wax in ears.
- there is a sudden loss of appetite.
- the child has a fever.
- the child complaints a hearing loss.
What Causes Ear Infection
- Buildup of excessive ear wax or fluid.
- Infection of the middle ear
- Ear injuries
- Sinus infections
- Changes in air pressure in a plane (ascending or descending)
Ear Infection Prevention
- Do not put things such as cotton swabs (buds), bobby pins, your fingers, etc. into your ears as this can cause damage to your eardrum.
- When blowing your nose, do it gently and one nostril at a time.
- Avoid smoking and secondhand smoke as much as possible.
- Do not swim in dirty waters.
- Keep your ears free of moisture after swimming or bathing because a dry ear is unlikely to become infected. After swimming or showering, shake your head to remove water from the ear canal. Dry your ears with the corner of the ear or tissue. If you do not have a perforated, punctured or injured eardrum, using a few drops of rubbing alcohol or 50:50 mixture of alcohol and white vinegar after swimming or showering. Adults may dry your ears using a hair dryer at low speed and temperature kept several inches from the ear.
- When swimming, wear earplugs to prevent teh infection. Do not use Q-tips or Blue tech (Plasticine), because they may remove protective earwax and irritate the skin of the ear canal and increasing the chances of infection. If ear plugs irritate your ears, you can replace them with some cotton motioned with petroleum jelly.
- Put some mineral oil in the ears before going in the water.
- Stay awake during the ascending/descending of aero plane.
- Feed infants in upright position to prevent milk getting into the Eustachian tubes. Do not allow infants to fall asleep with a bottle in mouth.
- Breast feed your babies as breast-fed babies have fewer ear infections.
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Disclaimer: Please note that the home remedies are only for minor common symptoms and should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. You should not rely on these remedies. Always consult your Doctor for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. You should also avoid using any of these remedies if you are allergic to any of the ingredients. The writer of this article or fatfreekitchen.com is not responsible in any manner.