Ear infections can be one of the most painful conditions you can experience. They are the most common reason children are brought to see the pediatrician. Most ear infections occur during the winter months.
They are caused when fluid is retained in the ear tubes, called Eustachian tubes, and bacteria are able to thrive. If the infection is inside the middle section of the ear tubes behind the eardrum, it is called otitis media. Because the space inside the ear tubes is limited, when pressure builds, it can result in extreme discomfort. Infections of the outer ear are called otitis externa, and are generally less painful.
Symptoms of an ear infection include feeling like the ear if “full”, mild to severe pain, difficulty hearing, feeling sick, and possibly having a fever. Often, an ear infection will develop a few days after getting a cold.
Ear infections are more common in infant and children because their ear structures are less angled and more prone to becoming clogged. Colds, congestion, exposure to smoke, allergies and frequent drinking while lying down can increase the chances of developing an ear infection. While it might seem like ear infections are contagious, they’re not. But when colds are passed among children, they may go on to develop an ear infection.
To diagnose an ear infection, the doctor will use a lighted instrument to look inside the ear called an otoscope. That way, the structures inside the ear will be visible. It’s possible to see the color of the ear tubes and the eardrum using an otoscope. If there is purulent material, or pus, it’s an indication of infection. In many cases, there is just inflammation, rather than a true infection.
If you doctor diagnoses an ear infection, you will be given a prescription for antibiotics to fight the bacterial in the ear. Your doctor can also give your drops to place in the ear to reduce the discomfort.
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