Overview of Ear Infection
Ear infection is a commonly occurring condition in younger children. But Adults can also get ear infections.
The infection occurs due to bacteria and viruses infecting the ear canals.These viruses and bacteria can transmit through the air, water, your fingers or other means. Sometimes if you have an infected throat, the pathogens can travel through the eustachian tube and cause an infection.
The infection can occur at the beginning of your ear canal (Outer Ear) or in the area just behind the eardrum (Middle Ear) or in the inner ear.
Depending on the location of infection, ear infections are of these three types:
1: Outer Ear Infection
Infection on the outer canal of the ear is medically called as Otitis Externa or Swimmer’s Ear. As the name swimmer’s ear suggests, the infection in the outer canal is common after swimming in water.
2: Middle Ear Infection
This occurs when the bacteria/viruses (Pathogens) infect the Eustachian Tubes. This condition can be painful and can persist for weeks. Infections of the middle ear are medically known as Otitis Media.
3: Inner Ear Infection
Inner ear infections are a rare condition and most patients feel pain in the inner ear due to chronic infections in the middle ear. The pain can cause inflammation in the inner ear, a condition known as Labyrinthis.
Long-term infection and pain can cause unrepairable damage to the inner and middle ear. IF you are feeling chronic pain, rush to a doctor immediately. Chronic ear infections are very painful and can reoccur any time in the future, hence they have to be treated immediately and permanently.
The first symptom of ear infection is a mild pain in the ears. Apart from this, some of the commonly reported symptoms are listed below:
- Persistent pain in the ear
- Impaired hearing or Hearing loss
- Pressurized feeling in the ears
- Pus-like discharge from the ear
- Upset, ill temper and fussiness in younger children and infants
- Infants may cry continuously due to pain
- Mild Fevers
- Loss if concentration and Balance
- Vertigo like symptoms
- Diahrrea, vomiting and nauseated feeling
- Change of taste and loss of appetite
- Bloody discharges from the ear
The symptoms listed above can be either temporary or continuous. If you are feeling excessive pain, you might a victim of infection in both ears (Double Ear Infections).
The infection can cause extreme discomfort and Fever in toddlers and infants. If your child is crying continuously because of pain, you can use hot packets to relieve the pain temporarily. If the fever is higher than 102°F, Get your child diagnosed by a doctor as soon as possible.
As discussed earlier, an ear infection is caused by bacteria and viruses.
Infection of the outer ear canal generally occurs when water enters your ear canal and makes the canal a moisture-rich environment for bacterial growth. This mostly happens after swimming or taking bath in water. The infection starts with mild itching and irritation on the skin. Putting a q-tip or ear swab can push the infectious bacteria further into the ear canal. Avoid using them. Similarly, using your keys or any sharp metallic object to scratch the skin can cause rashes on the skin and make the infection worse.
The infection of the middle ear occurs when pathogens irritate the eustachian tubes. The virus or bacteria get a nourishing environment when the eustachian tube gets swollen or blocked due to irritation. Blocked tube swallow up as the more fluids and mucus can’t drain from the tube and this causes pain in an infected ear.
Infants and younger children are the most common victims of middle ear infections. This is because they have undeveloped and thinner eustachian tubes. According to research, infants feeding trough the bottles instead of mother’s breasts are more prone to infections.
Ear infections can be avoided by following some simple preventive measures:
- Cover your ears while swimming and taking a bath.
- Dry all water from your ear properly.
- Keep your ears clean – use a cotton swab to gently clean your earwax.
- Keep your hands clean and avoid scratching the ear with fingers or any other object.
- If suffering from an allergy, take your medicines on time. Avoid triggering the allergies.
- Change in air pressure with changing altitudes or climate can also trigger the infection.
- Infants should avoid using the pacifier if they show any symptom of the infection.
- Avoid smoking and keep away from second-hand smokes as well.
- Avoid contact with patients suffering from any upper respiratory infections.
There are so many herbs, and remedies that have antibiotic properties. These herbs can certainly help in reducing the infection and its symptoms. Here are the most effective ones:
1: Hot Massage
Hot Massage is an effective way to reduce pain in any part of the body. If you are suffering from ear pain due to infection, you can apply a warm towel or hot water bottle over your ears. This will decrease the pain. Though this is a temporary treatment and it does not cure the infection, it provides relief from inflammation and other symptoms.
2: Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen Peroxide is a non-prescription chemical commonly available in pharmacies and drugstores. It has antibiotic properties, hence it can kill the pathogens causing the infection in ears. Just pour few drops of hydrogen peroxide (3% solution) in your ear canal and rinse your ears with it. It is also an effective method to remove earwax.
3: Garlic Oil
Garlic contains a special compound called Allicin. It has both antibiotic and pain relieving properties. Peel 2-3 cloves of garlic and boil them in 2 tablespoons of Mustard oil. Once boiled, turn off the heat and allow the oil to cool. When it is lukewarm pour 2-3 drops of the oil in your ear canal. Let the work for a minute is the ear, then rinse it and dry your ears using a cotton swab.
Note: The home remedies listed above can treat the infection to a certain level and provide relief from pain and inflammation. These remedies are not guaranteed to treat the infection completely. Get yourself diagnosed by a doctor and follow the medication as he prescribes.
If the ear infections are caused by pathogenic Bacteria, a doctor will prescribe you a dose of Antibiotics. These antibiotics can either to be orally or to be applied directly to the infection. Antibiotics come in many forms such as capsules, tablets, sprays, and ointments.
Most common way to treat infections in the ear is antibiotic ear drops. You may also be prescribed to take a nasal decongestant, antihistamines or steroidal medicines. But these may be only if have symptoms of allergy and cold.
If the infection is caused by a virus, then the antibiotic treatment will not be effective. Antibiotics are only against bacterial infection. In case of viral infection, the treatment will be specialized depending on the type of virus infestation.
Autoinsufflation – The process of closing your nose and exhaling air slowly to increase pressure on the Eustachian tubes to clear them – is another helpful technique to clean the tubes.
In case of severe infection, doctors may have to use thin plastic tubes to drain the fluids from the ear.
If your adenoids are swollen and enlarged due to infection, doctors may have to perform surgeries to remove the infected adenoids.
The infection of ears may be a common condition, but you should not ignore it. Infection should be treated properly. Complete removal and treatment of pathogens assure that infection will not occur again in future.
If remained untreated, the infection can spread to other parts of your head. Chronic and long-term infection can also cause hearing loss. Hence, the infection should be checked and treated by a qualified doctor as soon as you see the first signs.
I have clogged ears, what is the cause?
Clogging feeling in ears can be a symptom of ear infections. Consult a doctor to eliminate the possibility of infections.