Middle Ear Infection: Symptoms, Causes and Prevention

What Is a Middle Ear Infection? Middle ear infections are one of the most common childhood problems. However it can affect adults too, and in some cases can be a recurrent or ongoing problem. The ear is divided into three parts: outer, middle, and inner. Photo: medicalook.com The middle ear is a small pocket of air behind the eardrum. You have a middle ear infection when germs get into the middle ear and the area fills up with fluid (or pus), which contains germ-fighting cells. When the pus builds up, your ear starts to feel like a balloon that is ready to pop, which can really hurt. How Do I Get an Ear Infection? Between your middle ear and your throat there is a passage called the eustachian tube. The eustachian tubes, one on each side, keep pressure from building up by letting air move in and out of your middle ear through the throat. In young children, especially before the age of three, the eustachian tubes are very small and less able to keep germs out. The eustachian tubes get longer and usually work better as you grow older, but they can still cause problems. Adults who have frequent middle ear infections should see an ENT doctor because surrounding tissues in the nose or throat could be blocking the Eustachian tube and preventing drainage. If you have allergies or catch a cold, the eustachian tubes can get blocked up and let germs get in the middle ear. You do not catch ear infections from other people, though you might catch a cold that then leads to an ear infection. What are the symptoms of a middle ear infection? The common symptoms are pain in the affected ear, fever, a feeling of fullness or pressure in the ear, discharge from the ear (occurs from a ruptured ear drum), hearing loss and balance problems (vertigo) How is middle ear infection treated? The most common and concerning symptoms associated with acute ear infections are pain and fever. In small children, this is often manifested by crying, pulling or tugging at the ears, and waking up in the middle of the night, as lying down increases the pressure in the eustachian tube. Paracetamol and anti-inflammatory medications like Brufen, are often used to treat the pain and fever. However it is important to make sure children are given the right dose of medications. Antibiotics used to be used frequently. However nowadays, doctors sometimes will watch and wait before antibiotics are prescribed, In some cases the doctor may prescribe an antibiotic initially. 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 the ear stops hurting. If you don't take all the medicine, the infection could come back and your ear will start hurting again. A child who has chronic, or frequent, ear infections might need a few other tests. They include an audiogram), which tests hearing, and a tympanogram, which checks the movement of the eardrums. How do you prevent middle ear infections? Middle ear infections in infants and children can be prevented by:

  • Bottle feed your baby propped up
  • Prevent your baby from being exposed to cigarette smoke
  • Use decongestants, when the child has a cold
  • Practice good hygiene when handling your child when you have a cold – wash hands, cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing
  • Get your child vaccinated according to schedule
  • If your child has frequent infections, get the child assessed by a ENT specialist
Adults who have frequent middle ear infections need a complete ENT assessment dr sanjay bhalla Dr. Sanjay Bhalla ENT Surgeon – uniCare Medical Centre, BurJuman.
Disclaimer All information provided within this blog is intended for general information and is provided on the understanding that no surgical and medical advice or recommendation is being rendered. Please do not disregard the professional advice of your physician.

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