Risk Factors For Ear Infections
Ear infections occur most commonly in young children because they have short and narrow Eustachian tubes. About of children develop an acute ear infection at some point.
Infants who are bottle-fed also have a higher incidence of ear infections than their breastfed counterparts.
Other factors that increase the risk of developing an ear infection are:
- altitude changes
- Take OTC decongestants like pseudoephedrine .
- Avoid sleeping on the affected ear.
Causes Of Ear Infection
Ear infections are typically caused by viral or bacterial infections, often as a result of other conditions such as a cold or flu. In the case of otitis media, these illnesses can result in a blockage of the Eustachian tubes. This blockage creates a vacuum which allows bacteria to enter the middle ear.
In the case of outer ear infections, certain factors make the occurrence more likely. These include:
- Substances in the ear: Water or other substances in the ear may create an environment where an accumulation of bacteria becomes more likely. This can cause infection. The subsequent itching after infection can cause skin irritation, which may make an infection worse. As otitis externa is common in people who swim regularly, the condition is sometimes referred to as swimmerâs ear.
- Warm weather: The condition is more common in warmer countries.
- Skin issues: Irritated skin, as a result of skin problems such as eczema, may make otitis externa more likely.
- Otitis media: Ear discharge as a result of otitis media can sometimes become lodged in the ear and cause otitis externa.
Inner ear infections , in most cases, follow a viral infection, such as a cold or the flu. Less commonly, labyrinthitis can be caused by an infection that affects the rest of the body, such as measles, mumps and glandular fever. In rare cases, both labyrinthitis and vestibular neuritis can be caused by a bacterial infection.
What Are The Types Of Middle
Infections can affect the middle ear in several ways. They are:
Acute otitis media. This middle-ear infection occurs suddenly. It causes swelling and redness. Fluid and mucus become trapped inside the ear. You can have a fever and ear pain.
Otitis media with effusion. Fluid and mucus build up in the middle ear after the infection goes away. You may feel like your middle ear is full. This can continue for months and may affect your hearing.
Chronic otitis media with effusion. Fluid remains in the middle ear for a long time. Or it builds up again and again, even though there is no infection. This type of middle-ear infection may be hard to treat. It may also affect your hearing.
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When To See A Doctor About An Earache
Dr. Nguyen-Huynh recommends seeing a doctor if:
- Yoursymptoms remain after twoor three days, even if youve tried over-the-counter or home remedies.
- Yourear is very painful, oryou have other symptoms that bother you.
Other common conditions, such as temporomandibular joint dysfunction , can masquerade as earache infections. TMJ causes ear pain because the ear canal and the jaw joint share a nerve. If you have ear pain along with trouble chewing, talking or yawning, then you should see a dentist or TMJ expert to be sure youre treating the right condition, notes Dr. Nguyen-Huynh.
The good news? Hot and cold compresses and OTC pain relievers can also help relieve TMJ pain until you sort things out.
Signs Of Labyrinthitis And Vestibular Neuritis
Labyrinthitis is an inflammation of the inner ear, or the labyrinth. The condition is typically caused by a virus, and is commonly experienced at the same time as or following viral illnesses, such as a viral sore throat, cold or flu. Vestibular neuritis, another type of inner ear infection, is an infection of the vestibular nerve in the inner ear.
Signs and symptoms of both labyrinthitis and vestibular neuritis may include:
Labyrinthitis may also cause some mild hearing loss, as well as some of the signs and symptoms common to other types of ear infection. These include:
- Ringing in the ear
- Discharge from the ear
- Blurred or double vision
The above symptoms may also be experienced in cases of vestibular neuritis, though they are generally a lot more common with labyrinthitis, especially hearing loss and tinnitus.
If you are concerned that you may have an inner ear infection, try using the Ada app to find out what the problem may be.
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How To Tell If You Have An Outer Ear Infection
Infection in the outer ear canal, known as otitis externa, is often caused by bacteria that grows within the ear canal. Fungal infections can occur, but are less common. Bacterial and fungal infections both occur when water, sand, or other debris irritate the ear canal. Often this occurs after swimming, which is where otitis externa earned its popular name swimmers ear.
Outer ear infection causes may include:
Risk factors for otitis externa include narrow ear canals, warm and humid climates, eczema, and little to no earwax. Swimming is the most common cause of outer ear infections, particularly when swimming in water with high bacteria counts. Children are somewhat more susceptible to outer ear infections compared to adults because their ear canals are smaller, making proper drainage more difficult. Irritation of sensitive skin cells in the ear canal can be caused by headphones, ear plugs, or hearing aids leading to increased likelihood of infection in the ear canal.
Symptoms of outer ear infection:
- Pain, which can be very intense
- Worsened pain if the pinna is pulled
- Worsened pain while chewing
- Feeling of fullness within the ear
- Red or swollen ear canal or in severe cases, that of the pinna
- Reduced hearing from build up of discharge or swelling of the ear canal
Why Does My Throat Hurt When I Swallow
In addition to those mentioned above, other common causes of a sore throat include:
- a possible infection .
- dry air quality.
- muscle tension/strain.
- mechanical trauma or injury.
A sore throat can also be a sign of “some more serious conditions that may include throat cancer,” Dr. Erich P. Voigt, the director of the Division of General OtolaryngologyHead and Neck Surgery told Newsweek.
Although throat pain can occur at any time of the day, “the time/situation when it is the worst can often help us identify its cause,” Kavookjian said.
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What Are Symptoms Of An Inner Ear Infection
There are two types of inner infections:
Vestibular neuritis is an infection of the vestibule and semicircular canals.
Labyrinthitis is an infection of the entire inner ear, including the cochlea.
Unlike middle and outer ear infections, pain is not a symptom of inner ear infections. Vestibular neuritis leads to dizziness, nausea and vomiting, and inability to balance. This is called vertigo and can often make you feel as if the room is spinning. Vertigo is often worse when you move your head, stand up, or try to walk. Getting out of bed and walking to the bathroom might feel impossible.
Labrynthitis can lead to vertigo, just like vestibular neuritis. But because it also affects the cochlea, it can lead to hearing changes as well. This can be a ringing in the ears or temporarily decreased hearing. Sometimes the hearing loss is subtle, and you might not realize your hearing is different.
Can You See A Nurse For An Ear Infection
4.9/5If youdoctor for an ear infectionnurse willyouinfectionyounurse
Likewise, how do you know if you have an infection in your ear?
One may also ask, can I go to a pharmacy for an ear infection? A pharmacist can help with an ear infectionSpeak to a pharmacist if you think you have an outer ear infection. They can recommend acidic ear drops to help stop bacteria or fungus spreading.
Similarly one may ask, what does an ear infection look like through an otoscope?
The only way to know for sure if your child has one is for a doctor to look inside her ear with a tool called an otoscope, a tiny flashlight with a magnifying lens. A healthy eardrum looks sort of clear and pinkish-gray. An infected one looks red and swollen.
How long should I take off work with an ear infection?
Severe symptoms usually clear within 7 days, but complete recovery may take as long as 2 to 3 months. Older adults may have dizziness symptoms that last even longer.
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What Is An Otoscope
The otoscope comes with several pointed tips, called specula. Choose one thatâs slightly smaller than the opening of your child’s ear. If the ear hole is too small for the smallest tip, donât try to check for an infection at home.
Clean the speculum, unless youâre using disposable ones, and fit it to the viewing end of the otoscope. Turn on the instrument’s light.
If your child is older than 12 months, pull the outer ear gently up and back. This will straighten the ear canal and make it easier to see inside.
Hold the otoscope at the handle with your pinky finger outstretched. When the instrument is in the ear canal, your pinky should rest on your child’s cheek. This will keep it from going too far inside their ear canal and possibly hurting them.
Next, slowly put the speculum into your child’s ear while looking into the viewing end of the otoscope. The ear canal is sensitive, so donât put pressure on the instrument or push it too far.
Move the otoscope and the ear very gently until you can see the eardrum. Angle the viewing piece slightly toward your child’s nose, so it follows the normal angle of the ear canal.
Two important things to keep in mind:
Here are some things to look for:
- A red, bulging eardrum
- Earwax buildup
- A hole in the eardrum
How Is An Inner Ear Infection Diagnosed
Inner ear infections are usually diagnosed based on your symptoms and a physical exam. Many times, a healthcare provider can diagnose an inner ear infection on symptoms alone. And thats good, because its impossible to directly look at the inner parts of the ear on a physical exam. Your provider may also examine your eyes, because certain eye movements get affected when our balance is a little off.
Most of the time, no specific testing is needed to diagnose an inner ear infection. But if the diagnosis is a little less certain, its possible that your provider will recommend an additional evaluation. This may include:
Imaging of your head, such as a CT scan or an MRI
A formal hearing test to see if that is also affected
A referral to an ear, nose, throat specialist
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How To Get Rid Of A Sore Throat: Treatments
Treatment options depend on the cause of your throat pain. If your doctor determines your sore throat is caused by a bacterial infection, you will be given a course of antibiotics, which aims to kill the bacteria causing the infection.
It’s vital to take antibiotics exactly according to how you’ve been directed by your doctor. You must finish all doses, even if your symptoms improve, as the infection may not be gone and could return.
If your sore throat is caused by a virus, antibiotics will not help. Most sore throats can get better on their own within a week, however your doctor might prescribe other medicines to help relieve your symptoms.
While antibiotics won’t treat viral infections, viruses do lower your body’s resistance to bacterial infections, so in the case of a combined infection antibiotics may be recommended.
How Is An Ear Infection Treated
Treatment of ear infections depends on age, severity of the infection, the nature of the infection and if fluid remains in the middle ear for a long period of time.
Your healthcare provider will recommend medications to relieve you or your childs pain and fever. If the ear infection is mild, depending on the age of the child, your healthcare provider may choose to wait a few days to see if the infection goes away on its own before prescribing an antibiotic.
Antibiotics may be prescribed if bacteria are thought to be the cause of the ear infection. Your healthcare provider may want to wait up to three days before prescribing antibiotics to see if a mild infection clears up on its own when the child is older. If your or your childs ear infection is severe, antibiotics might be started right away.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended when to prescribe antibiotics and when to consider waiting before prescribing based on your childs age, severity of their infection, and your childs temperature. Their recommendations are shown in the table below.
American Academy of Pediatrics Treatment Guide for Acute Otitis Media
|in one or both ears||Mild for < 48 hours and temp < 102.2° F||Treat with antibiotic OR observe. If observe, start antibiotics if child worsens or doesnt improve within 48 to 72 hours of start of symptoms|
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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.
Whats The Bottom Line
Inner ear infections both vestibular neuritis and labyrinthitis are usually viral infections that resolve on their own. Although the diagnosis is usually an easy one to make, it is still a good idea to see your healthcare provider when experiencing these symptoms. They can rule out other possible conditions and also provide recommendations for medicines that will make your recovery more comfortable.
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Check If It’s An Ear Infection
The symptoms of an ear infection usually start quickly and include:
- discharge running out of the ear
- a feeling of pressure or fullness inside the ear
- itching and irritation in and around the ear
- scaly skin in and around the ear
Young children and babies with an ear infection may also:
- rub or pull their ear
- not react to some sounds
- be irritable or restless
- be off their food
- keep losing their balance
Most ear infections clear up within 3 days, although sometimes symptoms can last up to a week.
|Inner ear infection||Middle ear infection||Outer ear infection|
|Can affect both children and adults||Usually affects children||Usually affects adults aged 45 to 75|
|Caused by viral or bacterial infections||Caused by viruses like colds and flu||Caused by something irritating the ear canal, such as eczema, water or wearing earplugs|
|Affects parts of the inner ear like the labyrinth and vestibular system, and can lead to labyrinthitis||Affects the eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear to the back of the nose||Affects the ear canal|
Where Is The Middle Ear
The middle ear is behind the eardrum and is also home to the delicate bones that aid in hearing. These bones are the hammer , anvil and stirrup . To provide the bigger picture, lets look at the whole structure and function of the ear:
The ear structure and function
There are three main parts of the ear: outer, middle and inner.
- The outer ear is the outside external ear flap and the ear canal .
- The middle ear is the air-filled space between the eardrum and the inner ear. The middle ear houses the delicate bones that transmit sound vibrations from the eardrum to the inner ear. This is where ear infections occur.
- The inner ear contains the snail-shaped labyrinth that converts sound vibrations received from the middle ear to electrical signals. The auditory nerve carries these signals to the brain.
Other nearby parts
- The eustachian tube regulates air pressure within the middle ear, connecting it to the upper part of the throat.
- Adenoids are small pads of tissue above the throat and behind the nose and near the eustachian tubes. Adenoids help fight infection caused by bacteria that enters through the mouth.
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What Does The Doctor Do
The doctor will look into your ear with a special flashlight called an otoscope . With the otoscope, the doctor can see your eardrum, the thin membrane between your outer and middle ear.
The doctor may use the otoscope to blow a little puff of air in your ear. Why? To see if the air causes your eardrum to move the way a healthy eardrum does. An infected eardrum won’t move as it should because the pus presses against it and may make it bulge. An infection also can make the eardrum red.
If you have an ear infection, the doctor will make a decision about what to do next. He or she might ask your parent to watch you over the next day or two to see if you get any better. The doctor also might suggest a pain reliever to keep you comfortable.
If bacteria are causing the problem, the doctor might prescribe a medicine called an antibiotic , which usually clears up a bacterial infection, so you’ll feel better in a few days.
If you are given an antibiotic, it’s very important to keep taking the medicine for as many days as the doctor instructs even if your ear stops hurting. If you don’t take all the medicine, the infection could come back and your ear will start hurting again.
A kid who has chronic, or frequent, ear infections might need a few other tests. They include an audiogram , which tests your hearing, and a tympanogram , a machine that checks whether your eardrum moves normally.