Treating Outer Ear Infections
The outer ear should be carefully cleaned. That should be followed by the application of antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory medications on your ear.
Antibiotics may be prescribed if your doctor determines that the infection is bacterial.
If you have a viral infection, you may simply need to tend to the irritation on your ear and wait for the infection to resolve itself. Depending on the type of virus involved, more specialized treatment may be necessary.
Kids’ Ear Infections: Antibiotics Vs Waiting
Less Aggressive Treatment for Otitis Media Gains Ground With Parents and Doctors
The first study, a clinical trial, shows that immediate antibiotic treatment results in fewer symptoms in the first 10 days. But simply watching and waiting to see if the infection gets worse worked too — and it cut antibiotic use by two-thirds. Thirty days after the first doctor visit, the cure rate was the same in the immediate treatment and watchful-waiting groups.
The second study surveyed parents and doctors in six Massachusetts communities. About a third of parents said they’d be satisfied with their kids’ otitis media treatment if their doctors advised watching and waiting. But 40% said this would not be satisfactory. Meanwhile, 38% of doctors said they never used watching and waiting for otitis media. Only 6% said they did it most of the time, while 39% reported occasional use.
Both studies appear in the June issue of Pediatrics.
What Are The Symptoms
The main symptom is an earache. It can be mild, or it can hurt a lot. Babies and young children may be fussy. They may pull at their ears and cry. They may have trouble sleeping. They may also have a fever.
You may see thick, yellow fluid coming from their ears. This happens when the infection has caused the eardrum to burst and the fluid flows out. This isn’t serious and usually makes the pain go away. The eardrum usually heals on its own.
When fluid builds up but doesn’t get infected, children often say that their ears just feel plugged. They may have trouble hearing, but their hearing usually returns to normal after the fluid is gone. It may take weeks for the fluid to drain away.
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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 .
Treating Middle Ear Infections
You may be prescribed antibiotics. Some antibiotics may be taken orally. Others can be applied directly to the site of the infection with ear drops. Medications for pain, such as over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs may also be used to manage your symptoms.
Another helpful technique is called autoinsufflation. Its meant to help clear your eustachian tubes. You do this by squeezing your nose, closing your mouth, and very gently exhaling. This can send air through the eustachian tubes to help drain them.
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Watchful Waiting: Who Would Do It
Is watchful waiting ready for U.S. prime time? Harvard researcher Jonathan Finkelstein, MD, MPH, and colleagues note that some experts don’t think it’s a good idea, despite the new treatment guidelines.
To see whether watching and waiting might really work for U.S. kids with otitis media, Finkelstein’s team asked more than 2,000 parents and 160 doctors what they thought about holding off antibiotic treatment. Their findings:
- 38% of parents say they’d be satisfied or extremely satisfied with watchful waiting.
- 40% of parents say they’d be unsatisfied or extremely unsatisfied with watchful waiting.
- 38% of doctors say they never or almost never try watchful waiting.
- 39% of doctors say they “occasionally” try watchful waiting.
- 17% of doctors say they “sometimes” try watchful waiting.
- 6% of doctors say they recommend watchful waiting most of the time.
For parents, the results are clear.
“Parental opinions in a community are likely to change as experience with successful treatment of acute otitis media without antibiotics becomes more common,” Finkelstein and colleagues write.
For doctors, it’s not so clear. While there are community-wide benefits such as a reduction in antibiotic resistance, watchful waiting isn’t a very great benefit to an individual patient. Some experts don’t think it’s a good idea at all. And U.S. doctors tend to prefer active treatment over passive waiting.
Treating Sinus Infections Without Antibiotics
There are also complications that can develop with dependency on these drugs. The more antibiotics are used the less effective they can become, with possible side effects like dizziness, stomach problems and rashes.
Instead of turning to antibiotics, Alan Conway, M.D., family physician at Mayo Clinic Health System Franciscan Healthcare in Tomah, suggests some alternative methods of treatment. Dr. Conway says, First of all, you should give yourself enough rest. Your body needs the time to fight the infection with full force, especially in the first few days when symptoms are the most severe.
Dr. Conway also says. Watch out for over-the-counter products that contain oxymetazoline. These products may relieve symptoms for a few days, but they can cause congestion if used longer than three days. Instead, use generic pseudoephedrine pills if you are stuffed up for more than three days.
Sinus infections can turn into a bacterial infection, due to the prolonged blockage in the sinus cavity. It is not easy to determine whether the infection is viral or bacterial, considering that the symptoms are the same for both. Even if the infection becomes bacterial, 70% of the time the infection will go away within two weeks without antibiotics.
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Caring For Your Child
- Give your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen for fever, pain, or fussiness. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
- If the doctor prescribed antibiotics for your child, give them as directed. Do not stop using them just because your child feels better. Your child needs to take the full course of antibiotics.
- Place a warm washcloth on your child’s ear for pain.
- Encourage rest. Resting will help the body fight the infection. Arrange for quiet play activities.
What Are The Possible Complications From An Ear Infection
It is common for some fluid to remain behind the eardrum after the infection clears. This may cause dulled hearing for a while. This usually clears within a week or so and hearing then returns to normal. Sometimes the mucus does not clear properly and ‘glue ear’ may develop. Hearing may then remain dulled. Repeated ear infections can lead to glue ear. See a doctor if dulled hearing persists after an ear infection has gone, or if you suspect your child is having difficulty hearing.
If the eardrum bursts then it usually heals over within a few weeks once the infection clears. In some cases the perforation remains long-term and may need treatment to fix it.
If a child is normally healthy then the risk of other serious complications developing from an ear infection is very small. Rarely, a serious infection of the bone behind the ear develops from an ear infection. This is called mastoiditis. Very rarely, the infection spreads deeper into the inner ear, brain or other nearby tissues. This can cause various symptoms that can affect the brain and nearby nerves, including abscess and meningitis. You should always consult a doctor if a child with earache:
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When To See A Doctor
Ear infections can go away on their own in many cases, so a minor earache may not be a worry.
A doctor should typically be seen if symptoms have not improved within 3 days. If new symptoms occur, such as a fever or loss of balance, a doctor should be seen immediately.
Any sign of discharge coming from the ear would also require a visit to the doctor.
What Causes An Ear Infection
An ear infection usually is caused by bacteria and often begins after a child has a sore throat, cold, or other upper respiratory infection. If the upper respiratory infection is bacterial, these same bacteria may spread to the middle ear if the upper respiratory infection is caused by a virus, such as a cold, bacteria may be drawn to the microbe-friendly environment and move into the middle ear as a secondary infection. Because of the infection, fluid builds up behind the eardrum.
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Why Do Kids Get So Many Ear Infections
The NIH points to several reasons why kids are more likely to get ear infections:
- Childrens eustachian tubes are smaller and more level than those of adults. This means its harder for fluid to drain from the ear, so if a childs tubes get blocked by mucus from another respiratory infection, fluid may not drain properly.
- Childrens immune systems are still developing so it can be harder for them to fight infections.
- In children, if bacteria gets trapped in the adenoids , it can cause a chronic infection that gets passed to the eustachian tubes and middle ear.
Treatments For Sinus Infections Other Than Antibiotics
#1: Saline Nasal Wash
Saline nasal wash can be a great way to thin out the mucous in the sinuses enough to clear out the blockage. I recommend starting this early on in the course of the illness to prevent the infection from worsening.
You can even make this at home using 2 cups of water and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt. I would add a 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of baking soda to prevent burning that can occur with use. There are also plenty of over the counter saline nasal sprays that you can purchase. You can use this 4-6 times per day.
Vaporizers are great because they can also thin out the mucous and make you feel a lot better. An easy home remedy, steam is probably the best way to use this treatment. Beware if you are an asthmatic as the steam could cause worsening of the asthma symptoms.
#3: Steroid Nasal Spray
Steroid nasal sprays such as Flonase have been my go to remedy recently and the great news is that they are now over the counter. The general recommendation is to use 1-2 sprays per nostril daily.
But I have found great relief using 2 sprays in each nostril twice daily. At these higher doses it is important to remember that you should use this short term, no more than 5-7 days.
These medications can significantly reduce inflammation allowing the congestion blockage to clear and significantly alleviate symptoms.
Guaifenesin such as Mucinex can certainly break up the mucous, allowing the congestion to clear more quickly.
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Cold Or Warm Compresses
People often use ice packs or warm compresses, like a heating pad or damp washcloth, to relieve pain. The same can be done for ear pain. This method is safe for both children and adults.
Place the ice pack or warm compress over the ear and alternate between warm and cold after 10 minutes. If you prefer either cold or warm, you can use just one compress.
How Can I Prevent Utis In The Future
If youve had a UTI in the past, theres a chance that youll have another one in the future. In fact, about a third of women with a UTI will have another one within 6 months. So, what can you do to help prevent UTIs? Well, fortunately, there are many non-medication strategies that may help prevent UTIs from recurring.
Here are some ideas that may help prevent UTIs:
Maintain a healthy body weight
Benefits may also be found in taking a daily supplement like:
And in some cases, your healthcare provider may actually suggest antibiotics to prevent UTIs especially if you get them frequently. In people who have gone through menopause, hormone therapy may also help to protect against UTIs by encouraging Lactobacillus to flourish.
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What Are Other Causes Of Ear Pain
Other causes of ear pain include:
- A sore throat.
- Teeth coming in in a baby.
- An infection of the lining of the ear canal. This is also called swimmers ear.
- Pressure build up in the middle ear caused by allergies and colds.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/16/2020.
How Is An Ear Infection Diagnosed
Your healthcare provider will look at your or your childs ear using an instrument called an otoscope. A healthy eardrum will be pinkish gray in color and translucent . If infection is present, the eardrum may be inflamed, swollen or red.
Your healthcare provider may also check the fluid in the middle ear using a pneumatic otoscope, which blows a small amount of air at the eardrum. This should cause the eardrum to move back and forth. The eardrum will not move as easily if there is fluid inside the ear.
Another test, tympanometry, uses air pressure to check for fluid in the middle ear. This test doesnt test hearing. If needed, your healthcare provider will order a hearing test, performed by an audiologist, to determine possible hearing loss if you or your child has had long lasting or frequent ear infections or fluid in the middle ears that is not draining.
Your healthcare provider will also check your throat and nasal passage and listen to your breathing with a stethoscope for signs of upper respiratory infections.
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Otitis Media In Adults
Otitis media is another name for a middle ear infection. It means an infection behind your eardrum. This kind of ear infection can happen after any condition that keeps fluid from draining from the middle ear. These conditions include allergies, a cold, a sore throat, or a respiratory infection.
Middle ear infections are common in children, but they can also happen in adults. An ear infection in an adult may mean a more serious problem than in a child. So you may need additional tests. If you have an ear infection, you should see your healthcare provider for treatment. If they happen repeatedly, you should see an otolaryngologist or an otologist .
What are the types of middle ear infections?
Infections can affect the middle ear in several ways. They are:
Who is more likely to get a middle ear infection?
You are more likely to get an ear infection if you:
- Smoke or are around someone who smokes
- Have seasonal or year-round allergy symptoms
- Have a cold or other upper respiratory infection
What causes a middle ear infection?
The middle ear connects to the throat by a canal called the eustachian tube. This tube helps even out the pressure between the outer ear and the inner ear. A cold or allergy can irritate the tube or cause the area around it to swell. This can keep fluid from draining from the middle ear. The fluid builds up behind the eardrum. Bacteria and viruses can grow in this fluid. The bacteria and viruses cause the middle ear infection.
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Why To Avoid Antibiotics When They’re Not Needed
Antibiotics often are not needed to treat an ear infection.
- Most ear infections will clear up on their own. This is true whether they are caused by bacteria or a virus.
- Antibiotics kill only bacteria. They won’t help with an infection caused by a virus.
- Antibiotics won’t help much with pain.
There are good reasons not to give antibiotics if they are not needed.
- Overuse of antibiotics can be harmful. If antibiotics are taken when they aren’t needed, they may not work later when they’re really needed. This is because bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics.
- Antibiotics can cause side effects, such as stomach cramps, nausea, rash, and diarrhea. They can also lead to vaginal yeast infections.
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