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Are Ear Infections Contagious In Adults

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Other Types Of Ear Infections

Middle Ear Infection(FAQs) Part-1 by ENT Specialist Dr. Raman Abrol

Swimmer’s Ear

Acute otitis externa is an inflammation or infection of the outer ear and ear canal. It can be triggered by water that gets trapped in the ear. The trapped water can cause bacteria and fungi to breed. Otitis externa can also be precipitated by overly aggressively scratching or cleaning of ears or when an object gets stuck in the ears.

Otitis externa is generally treated with topical antibiotics, which will cure the infection and help relieve pain. With eardrops, most cases will clear up within 2 to 3 days. If the condition persists, the doctor will need to evaluate and rule out other possible causes.

Usually Not A Cause For Alarm

Two-thirds of children have had an ear infection, also known as acute otitis media, before their first birthday. Young children are susceptible to these infections in part because their eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear to the throat and nose, is underdeveloped and lies at a horizontal angle , easily clogging with fluid. Also, young childrens immune systems are still developing, putting them at high risk for upper respiratory infections, which can lead to ear infections.

Why Do Kids Get Ear Infections

Kids get ear infections more than adults do for several reasons:

  • Their shorter, more horizontal eustachian tubes let bacteria and viruses find their way into the middle ear more easily. The tubes are also narrower, so more likely to get blocked.
  • Their adenoids, gland-like structures at the back of the throat, are larger and can interfere with the opening of the eustachian tubes.

Other things that can put kids at risk include secondhand smoke, bottle-feeding, and being around other kids in childcare. Ear infections are more common in boys than girls.

Ear infections are not contagious, but the colds that sometimes cause them can be. Infections are common during winter weather, when many people get upper respiratory tract infections or colds .

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Treatment For Otitis Media With Effusion

Otitis media with effusion is fluid behind the middle ear . It usually resolves on its own without treatment, especially when it follows an acute ear infection. Antibiotics are not helpful for most cases of OME.

Clinical practice guidelines for OME recommend the following treatments:

  • Watchful Waiting for OME. The child is typically monitored for the first 3 months. If OME lasts longer than 3 months, a hearing test should be conducted. Even if OME lasts for longer than 3 months, the condition generally resolves on its own without any long-term effects on language or development. The doctor will re-evaluate the child at periodic intervals to determine if there is risk for hearing loss.
  • Drug Treatment. Antibiotics, decongestants, antihistamines, and corticosteroids do not help and are not recommended for routine management of OME. Antibiotic ear drops are helpful for treating ear infections that may occur in children with tympanostomy tubes. Topical antibiotics work better than oral antibiotics for treating the discharge that can occur with this type of infection.
  • Surgery. Ear tube insertion may be recommended when fluid builds up behind your child’s eardrum and does not go away after 3 months or longer. Fluid buildup may cause some hearing loss while it is present. However, most children do not have long-term damage to their hearing or their ability to speak even when the fluid remains for many months.

Tonsillectomy is not recommended for OME treatment.

How Do You Get Rid Of An Ear Infection Fast

Are Ear Infections Contagious? Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

The fastest way to get rid of an ear infection is to get a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. There are several types of ear infection, each with different treatment methods. If you do not know what type of infection you have, your treatment may not be working and your infection is prolonged. At PlushCare you can get a same-day diagnosis from an online doctor who can also prescribe you the proper medication. The average appointment is just 15 minutes. Book here.

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Some Ear Infection Symptoms

  • Pain in the year while lying down
  • Sleep Disturbances
  • Losing balance due to infected eardrums
  • Children of young age would tend to cry more often
  • Inability to hear correctly and a consistent tingling sound in the ear.
  • Experiencing fever more than 100 degrees along with a cold
  • Consistent feeling of loss of appetite and headache
  • The infection causes draining of the entire fluid from the ear

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Get On The Road To Recovery The Same Day At An Urgent Care Clinic

Ear infections arent just painful, they can be dangerous. When left untreated ear infections can lead to serious complications, including hearing loss. When you suspect that you, or your young child, has an ear infection its important to quickly get diagnosed and start treatment.

Sometimes its just not possible to get in to see your regular doctor on the same day. Urgent care clinics offer same day care. Youll be treated by a qualified, experienced medical professional in your neighborhood. Book your appointment online and your wait time is minimized.

With a same day appointment at an urgent care clinic youll be on the road to recovery in no time.

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Complications Of Swimmer’s Ear

While the most serious complications are rare, there are some more common complications to look for.

  • Repeated infections
  • Pus filled lump in or around the ear
  • Infection spread to the face or deeper layers of the skin
  • Infection spread to cartilage or bones within the skull

The most serious of these complications are more likely for people with a weakened immune system or an underlying medical condition.

What Is Acute Otitis Media

Ear Infection : : Causes, Diagnosis, Symptoms, Treatment, Prognosis

Acute otitis media is an infection of the middle ear, generally caused by bacteria. In acute otitis media , pus and infected fluid accumulate in the middle ear space.

The tympanic membrane appears inflamed, reddened, and often protrudes outward. Usually, an ear infection begins after the eustachian tube has become swollen, congested, and closed, most commonly resulting from an ongoing viral respiratory infection.

Acute otitis media should not be confused with: 1) external otitis -a painful bacterial infection of the superficial skin of the ear canal, or 2) otitis media with effusion -an accumulation of non-inflamed fluid behind the eardrum. Otitis media with effusion is not considered infected, and most doctors do not treat it with antibiotics. This uninfected fluid in the middle ear is a remnant in 50% to 60% of resolved ear infections. It is frequently a mild complication of colds, respiratory illnesses, or nasal allergies.

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What Limitations Are There On A Child With Middle Ear Infection Or Inflammation

  • Otitis media is not contagious .
  • A child with otitis media can travel by airplane but, if the Eustachian tube is not working well, the pressure change as the plane descends may cause the child pain.
  • It is best not to fly with a draining ear.
  • You should always consult your doctor if you have specific concerns.

Adults Can Get Ear Infections Too

Ear infections are incredibly common. Most people will have one at some point during their lifetime usually in early childhood.

And while its much less common, its possible for adults to get ear infections, too.

Kristin Downs, APRN, explains the types of ear infections, as well as their symptoms and treatments. Kristin often treats common ailments like ear infections in her role at OSF OnCall Urgent Care.

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What Research Is Being Done

The most important recent development to potentially reduce the frequency of ear infections is a new pneumococcal conjugate vaccine. A study from Northern California suggests that this vaccine could prevent about 7% of overall episodes of ear infections, and up to 23% of recurrent ear infections.

The new pneumococcal vaccine contains 7 of 90 types of pneumococcus, which are the most common and the most resistant bacteria. Elimination of these resistant types could have an impact on the number of antibiotic failures in children. This also could mean a reduction in the placement of tubes, possibly by one-fourth, as observed in the California study.

This vaccine is administered to infants at 2, 4, 6, and 12 months of age. Side effects have been minimal, and it has been a very safe vaccine. It uses the same technology as the universally administered HIB vaccine.

Some new antibiotics are about to undergo testing in children with acute otitis media. In preliminary testing, these drugs appear to work against the resistant pneumococcus.

About the Author

Dr. Block is a full-time practicing pediatrician in rural Bardstown, Kentucky who serves on the clinical faculties at both the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville as an Associate Clinical Professor of Pediatrics.

His pediatric practice is one of the leading pediatric research groups in the United States and, in fact, Dr. Block was awarded the American Academy of Pediatrics 1998 Practitioner Research Award.

Can I Do Anything To Prevent Ear Infections In My Child

Is an ear infection contagious

It is not easy to prevent ear infections, but the following may help reduce the risk:

  • keeping your child smoke-free
  • breastfeeding your baby for at least 3 to 6 months is thought to be protective against the early development of ear infections this may be because breastfeeding boosts the infection-fighting system

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What Medicines Treat Otitis Media

Some children will get better without specific antibiotic treatment, as many ear infections are viral in nature and do not need an antibiotic. However, doctors typically prescribe antibiotics in infants under 6 months of age, and for recurrent ear infections or severe symptoms. However, using antibiotics too often can cause bacteria to become resistant to the medicine.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians recommend a wait-and-see approach for children:

  • 6 to 23 months of age with a temperature less than102.2 F and middle ear pain in one ear for less than 48 hours
  • 24 months and older with mild middle ear pain in one or both ears for less than 48 hours and a temperature less than 102.2 F

Parents will follow-up with the doctor in 2 to 3 days with the wait-and-see approach. Some doctors will still prescribe antibiotics in children under 2 years with AOM. In more serious cases in older children, when there is recent high fever, both ears are affected, or ear drainage, an antibiotic treatment may be appropriate. Talk with your doctor about the potential benefits and risks of using antibiotics.

Antibiotic choice should be based on effectiveness, patient-specific needs like allergies, taste or dosage form preference, dosing convenience and cost. Its important to remember that although most antibiotics used for ear infections are very safe, there may still be side effects such as diarrhea or rash from antibiotic use.

What Causes Acute Otitis Media

Acute otitis media usually is caused by one of four bacteria:

  • Streptococcus pneumoniae in 30% to 45% of cases.
  • Haemophilus influenzae in 20% to 30% of cases.
  • Moraxella catarrhalis in approximately 10% of cases.
  • Group A Streptococcus in 5% of the cases.
  • The pneumococcus bacteria is now the most difficult to treat. Some strains have become very resistant to antibiotics by using their unique ability to transform their genes and cell wall into a bacterial form, which is resistant to most of the antibiotics that commonly are used to treat ear infections. These resistant strains frequently are cultured from children who do not respond to several courses of antibiotics. When a child has an ear infection that does not respond to antibiotics, resistant pneumococcus bacteria may cause it.

    Pneumococcus has 90 different types, which are all genetically related however, 7 types account for the majority of ear infections in childhood and nearly all of the antibiotic resistant strains. In addition, pneumococcus is the leading cause of meningitis, bloodstream infections, and serious pneumonia in children, sometimes as a result of a preceding ear infection.

    Up to half of Haemophilus and nearly all Moraxella bacteria produce an enzyme , which makes these bacteria resistant to some of the commonly used antibiotics. This enzyme may destroy many antibiotics when they come in contact with the bacteria. Nonetheless, several available antibiotics are still quite effective against these strains.

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    What Are The Harms Of Fluid Buildup In Your Ears Or Repeated Or Ongoing Ear Infections

    Most ear infections dont cause long-term problems, but when they do happen, complications can include:

    • Loss of hearing: Some mild, temporary hearing loss usually occurs during an ear infection. Ongoing infections, infections that repeatedly occur, damage to internal structures in the ear from a buildup of fluid can cause more significant hearing loss.
    • Delayed speech and language development: Children need to hear to learn language and develop speech. Muffled hearing for any length of time or loss of hearing can significantly delay or hamper development.
    • Tear in the eardrum: A tear can develop in the eardrum from pressure from the long-lasting presence of fluid in the middle ear. About 5% to 10% of children with an ear infection develop a small tear in their eardrum. If the tear doesnt heal on its own, surgery may be needed. If you have drainage/discharge from your ear, do not place anything into your ear canal. Doing so can be dangerous if there is an accident with the item touching the ear drum.
    • Spread of the infection: Infection that doesnt go away on its own, is untreated or is not fully resolved with treatment may spread beyond the ear. Infection can damage the nearby mastoid bone . On rare occasions, infection can spread to the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord and cause meningitis.

    The Risks Of Ignoring Symptoms Of Ear Disease

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    Once youve noticed any of these ear disease symptoms, its important to act quickly. Some earaches may go away on their own but others can grow into longer lasting problems if not treated properly.

    Ear disease is often uncomfortable. Depending on the specific condition, you may feel a strong pressure or dull ache in your ear that radiates throughout your head. You could also experience dizziness, ringing noises or nausea.

    However, discomfort and pain arent the worst-case scenarios. Ear diseases left undiagnosed and untreated can lead to more serious health issues over time.

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    The Main Type Of Ear Infection

    Ortis media or middle ear infection is the main problem that most will experience. It often starts with an infection that impacts the throat or the nose before moving to the ear. So, symptoms can be quite similar to getting a cold or having the flu.

    Once the infection starts it can then spread to different areas such as the Eustachian tubes. Mucus begins to block the tubes and stops things from draining causing the development of bacteria. When this happens the mucus begins to cause the eardrum to stretch which is why it can be quite painful. If an infection has occurred then the mucus will be red or cloudy. You wont be able to see this of course, but with a tool known as an otoscope, a doctor certainly can. If mucus is actually flooding the canal, then the eardrum may have been torn.

    The good news is that these infections will often disappear within between 3 days and two weeks. As such, you wont usually be prescribed meds unless the issue persists. Even then, doctors are often unwilling to prescribe treatment because typically there will be no need. However, for a very severe infection, they will provide you with antibiotics in the form of ear drops.

    However, often the best form of treatment for a middle ear infection is a warm compress. This can be used on the outside of the ear while taking something like ibuprofen.

    Why Are Ear Infections Common In Children

    You might be wondering why ear infections are more common in children. Well, there are a number of reasons for this. The main cause though is their eustachian tubes, the ones that get clogged with mucus, are shorter. The horizontal angle also means that the connection is far more likely to get infected and clogged.

    There are other factors to consider too. For instance, a child who was born prematurely has Down syndrome or a Cleft palate could be more likely to develop this issue. Using a pacifier may also be an issue particularly if it is not kept clean as this will spread bacteria. Another reason is that children often lie back while feeding or drinking.

    So, how many ear infections are too many? Well, typically if a child is experiencing three infections each six months or four infections within a year, then this should be a cause for concern. This is when long term effects can become an issue and why you need to make sure that you are visiting a doctor as soon as possible.

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    How Is An Acute Middle Ear Infection Treated

    Many doctors will prescribe an antibiotic, such as amoxicillin, to be taken over seven to 10 days. Your doctor also may recommend over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, or eardrops, to help with fever and pain.

    If your doctor isnt able to make a definite diagnosis of OM and your child doesnt have severe ear pain or a fever, your doctor might ask you to wait a day or two to see if the earache goes away. The American Academy of Pediatrics issued guidelines in 2013 that encourage doctors to observe and closely follow these children with ear infections that cant be definitively diagnosed, especially those between the ages of 6 months to 2 years. If theres no improvement within 48 to 72 hours from when symptoms began, the guidelines recommend doctors start antibiotic therapy. Sometimes ear pain isnt caused by infection, and some ear infections may get better without antibiotics. Using antibiotics cautiously and with good reason helps prevent the development of bacteria that become resistant to antibiotics.

    If your doctor prescribes an antibiotic, its important to make sure your child takes it exactly as prescribed and for the full amount of time. Even though your child may seem better in a few days, the infection still hasnt completely cleared from the ear. Stopping the medicine too soon could allow the infection to come back. Its also important to return for your childs follow-up visit, so that the doctor can check if the infection is gone.

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