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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.
If you, or your child, have a high temperature or you do not feel well enough to do your normal activities, try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people until you feel better.
|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|
Home Remedies For Acute Sinusitis
First, note that we recommend these natural remedies for acute sinusitis, which is generally a result of allergies or a cold. Chronic sinus infections can linger for months. Or they can continue to recur over a long period of time. So if your symptoms are more severe and persistent, we always recommend seeing a doctor.
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Physical And Structural Injuries In The Face And Ears
Serious complications or permanent physical injuries from ear infections are very uncommon, but may include:
- Structural damage. Certain children with severe or recurrent otitis media may be at risk for structural damage in the ear, including erosion of the ear canal.
- Cholesteatomas. Inflammatory tissues in the ear called cholesteatomas are an uncommon complication of chronic or severe ear infections.
- Calcifications. In rare cases, even after a mild infection, some children develop calcification and hardening in the middle and, occasionally, in the inner ear. This may be due to immune abnormalities.
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Diagnosis Of Ear Infections
Your physician will look into your ear with an otoscope, a medical instrument with a light on one end designed to get a better view inside the ear. Your doctor will look for the visual signs of ear infection, such as redness and inflammation.
To check for fluid buildup, a pneumatic otoscope, which blows air at the eardrum, will be used. If there is excessive fluid behind the eardrum, it will not move as it should when the air hits it.
In some cases, hearing tests may also be performed to assess any damage to the ear from the infection.
Different types of ear infections present with different symptoms, which can include:
- Inner ear infections: Hearing loss, ringing in the ears , dizziness, loss of balance, nausea and vomiting, and ear pain
- Middle ear infections: Fluid in the ear, ear pain, fever, a feeling of general illness, pressure in the ears, and hearing loss
- Outer ear infections: Inflammation of the ear canal, itching in the ear, ear pain, swelling of the ear canal, redness, and fluid draining from the ear
Ear Infection Doctor Discussion Guide
Children with ear infections, especially toddlers or infants, may not be able to describe their symptoms, but an ear infection will often present with the following signs:
- Tugging or pulling at their ears
- Fussing or crying
- Being clumsy and having balance issues
- Trouble hearing or responding to quiet noises
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Ear Infections In Older Adults
While ear infections are more common in children, older adults can also get them.
Swimmerâs ear is most common in people ages 45 to 75. A potentially life threatening ear infection, malignant otitis externa , mostly occurs in older people with diabetes or weakened immune systems.
The aging process may affect the structure of the ears, making older adults more susceptible to ear diseases.
A of 138 people ages 60 and over found that 9.4% had a middle ear infection.
Older adults who have ear infections may experience symptoms such as the following:
What Your Doctor Needs To Know
To find out if youÃ¢ve got more than a bad cold, you need to learn the cause of your symptoms. Your doctor can help you figure out whether you have sinusitis or something else.
Tell your doctor how long youÃ¢ve had sinus symptoms, and whether theyÃ¢ve gotten worse or stayed the same. If youÃ¢ve had them for less than 10 days and theyÃ¢re not getting worse, you probably have a viral infection. It will likely go away on its own.
Over-the-counter treatments like saline sprays, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen may help ease symptoms along the way. might reduce the swelling and inflammation temporarily. If you use them, read the directions carefully and only use as directed. Using nasal decongestant sprays for more than a few days could make the congestion worse.
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What Are The Causes Of Ear Infections In Adults
Viruses, bacteria, and fungi can all cause ear infections in adults. However, different parts of the ear become infected for different reasons.
While viruses commonly cause inner ear infections, doctors often do not know the cause when diagnosing the condition. Therefore, they may recommend resting and staying hydrated instead of prescribing antibiotics.
The virus that causes chickenpox and shingles can cause labyrinthitis when it reactivates. A middle ear infection can also spread to the inner ear.
Middle ear infections in adults commonly develop due to an upper respiratory virus, influenza, or cold. These viral infections can clog up the eustachian tube, which runs from the ear to the throat. This clog keeps fluid in the ear from draining andcan result in a secondary bacterial infection.
The bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus are responsible for most outer ear infections in adults. These bacteria can enter the ear canal from several sources:
A Pharmacist Can Help With An Ear Infection
Speak to a pharmacist if you think you have an outer ear infection.
They can recommend acidic eardrops to help stop bacteria or fungus spreading.
- a long-term medical condition such as diabetes or a heart, lung, kidney or neurological disease
- a weakened immune system because of chemotherapy, for example
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What Are Ototopical Antibiotics
Ototopical antibiotics are medications administered topically in the ear for treating middle ear infections. Ototopical antibiotics are usually the first-line treatment for recurrent bacterial ear infections, in the absence of systemic infection.
Ear infections are more common in children, and often clear up on their own. Most ear infections can be managed with warm compresses and pain management. Antibiotics are usually administered only for severe and persistent ear infections.
Causes Of A Middle Ear Infection
Middle ear infections are caused by viruses and bacteria, often resulting from other conditions that can cause blockage and swelling of the eustachian tubes that connect the throat and the middle ear. When this happens, a vacuum is created, allowing germs and fluid from the throat to enter the middle ear. A middle ear infection develops when bacteria or viruses grow in this fluid.
Children are more susceptible to middle ear infections than adults, partly because their eustachian tubes are narrower, so they are more easily blocked. Children also have relatively larger adenoids than adults. These are masses of tissue situated at the point where the nose bends into the throat that are vulnerable to infection, swelling and inflammation ÃÂ¢Ã¢Â¬Ã¢ when this happens, they can block the eustachian tubes and cause a middle ear infection.
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Top 10 List Of Common Infections Treated With Antibiotics
Most antibiotics fall into their individual antibiotic classes. An antibiotic class is a grouping of different drugs that have similar chemical and pharmacologic properties. Their chemical structures may look comparable, and drugs within the same class may kill the same or related bacteria.
However, it is important not to use an antibiotic for an infection unless your doctor specifically prescribes it, even if its in the same class as another drug you were previously prescribed. Antibiotics are specific for the kind of bacteria they kill. Plus, you would need a full treatment regimen to effectively cure your infection, so dont use or give away leftover antibiotics.
Note: Tables below are not all-inclusive, generics are available for many brands.
Antibiotics For Ear Infections In Adults
If otitis media is characteristic for children, external and internal ear infections are most commonly seen in adults. Cephalexin is considered one of the most effective antibiotics in the treatment of otitis. The severity of the main otitis media symptoms, like pain, inflammation and itching, reduce already on the second day of the antibiotic administration.
Amoxicillin is effective against highly resistant bacteria that cause ear infections. The antibiotic from Penicillins class relieves the basic symptoms of otitis in 7-10 days.
Zithromax is suitable for those, who are experiencing an acute allergy to penicillin. It is an Azithromycin-based drug. The dose of Zithromax 500 mg per day, divided into two doses, is enough to get rid of ear infections symptoms within 3-5 days.
Ciprofloxacin is the most prescribed antibiotic in the treatment of acute inflammatory forms of internal otitis. Ciprofloxacin of 500 mg taken just for a week relieves the symptoms of otitis media.
Cephalexin is suitable for the treatment of acute and chronic forms of external otitis, when pus appears at the inflammation site. To get rid of ear infections, patients should take 250-500 mg of Cephalexin per day, divided into 2 or 4 doses.
You will need a total of 5-10 days to get rid of the main otitis media symptoms with Cefdinir. This antibiotic, just like Cephalexin, belong to the Cephalosporins group. Cefdinir should be taken at a dose of 600 mg once a day .
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How To Administer Antibacterial Ear Drops
Antibiotic ear drops are for the ears only and should never be put into the eyes. Always take the entire prescribed amount even if your symptoms improve as it prevents a recurrence of the infection.
Follow these steps to correctly administer ear drops:
- Warm the bottle in your hand for two minutes, inserting cold ear drops can cause dizziness
- Wash your hands
- Have the person with the ear infection lie on their side with the problem ear up
- For children three years and older, gently pull the outer ear outward and upward in the direction toward the top of their head
- For children younger than three years, gently pull the outer eat outward and downward in the direction toward their feet
- Without allowing the dropper to touch the ear, carefully put the drops in the ear
- Remain laying on their side for two minutes or put a cotton plug in the ear
What Are The Disadvantages Of Ototopical Antibiotics
Ototopical antibiotics have a few disadvantages as well, which include the following:
Difficult to administer
Direct delivery at the infection site may be difficult or impossible sometimes. The medication may fail to reach the infected area in the middle ear if the ear canal is blocked due to:
- Excessive and hardened earwax
- Block in the ear tubes inserted for fluid drainage from the middle ear
- Swollen or overgrown tissue
Steps must be first taken to clear the blocks before antibiotic administration. Irrigating the ear canal can easily clear a block caused by earwax and other secretions, but an ear tube block and granulation each may require some procedure and other medications.
Inflammation and complications
Ototoxicity is toxicity to the ear from local administration. Ototoxicity can irritate and inflame the mucus membranes of the middle ear. If the antibiotic enters the inner ear, it may lead to:
- Sensitivity reaction
Ototopical antibiotics can cause allergic reactions. Low-grade sensitivity reactions may cause persistent drainage that may be impossible to distinguish from drainage due to infection, making treatment difficult. Some people may also develop cross-sensitivity to related antibiotics.
Absence of systemic effect
Alteration of microenvironment
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How Is An Acute Middle Ear Infection Treated
Many doctors will prescribe an antibiotic, such as amoxicillin, to be taken over seven to 10 days. Your doctor also may recommend over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, or eardrops, to help with fever and pain.
If your doctor isnt able to make a definite diagnosis of OM and your child doesnt have severe ear pain or a fever, your doctor might ask you to wait a day or two to see if the earache goes away. The American Academy of Pediatrics issued guidelines in 2013 that encourage doctors to observe and closely follow these children with ear infections that cant be definitively diagnosed, especially those between the ages of 6 months to 2 years. If theres no improvement within 48 to 72 hours from when symptoms began, the guidelines recommend doctors start antibiotic therapy. Sometimes ear pain isnt caused by infection, and some ear infections may get better without antibiotics. Using antibiotics cautiously and with good reason helps prevent the development of bacteria that become resistant to antibiotics.
If your doctor prescribes an antibiotic, its important to make sure your child takes it exactly as prescribed and for the full amount of time. Even though your child may seem better in a few days, the infection still hasnt completely cleared from the ear. Stopping the medicine too soon could allow the infection to come back. Its also important to return for your childs follow-up visit, so that the doctor can check if the infection is gone.
Ear Infection Home Treatments And Remedies
Ear infections can occur in the outer ear , middle ear , and inner ear . Natural and home remedies to treat pain include:
- Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen
- Applying a warm compress on the infected ear.
- Applying naturopathic ear drops with ginger, tea tree, or olive oil may help with pain and inflammation.
Talk with your doctor or pediatrician before using any herbal or naturopathic medicine for ear infections.
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What Causes Middle Ear Infections
Most middle ear infections occur when an infection such as a cold, leads to a build-up of mucus in the middle ear and causes the Eustachian tube to become swollen or blocked.
This mean mucus can’t drain away properly, making it easier for an infection to spread into the middle ear.
An enlarged adenoid can also block the Eustachian tube. The adenoid can be removed if it causes persistent or frequent ear infections. Read more about removing adenoids.
Younger children are particularly vulnerable to middle ear infections as:
- the Eustachian tube is smaller in children than in adults
- a child’s adenoids are relatively much larger than an adults
Certain conditions can also increase the risk of middle ear infections, including:
- having a cleft palate a type of birth defect where a child has a split in the roof of their mouth
- having Down’s syndrome a genetic condition that typically causes some level of learning disability and a characteristic range of physical features
Do Ear Infections Clear Up On Their Own
Some ear infections may clear on their own. Middle ear infections are often cured by the bodys immune system when left alone. However, inner and outer infections may require medication. If patients are experiencing more than just the common symptoms of ear infections then they should seek medical attention.
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What Is My Doctor Looking For
Your doctor will ask you about any symptoms youâve had. Be sure to come to the office with any notes you might need and questions on your mind.
She will look at the eardrum with an instrument called an otoscope for signs of infection. This is a tough task with a fussy infant, so be ready to help calm the little one if itâs your child with the earache.
Signs of infection include a red eardrum or a bulging eardrum with fluid behind it. The fluid may be thin like during a cold, or thick like pus. It is located in the middle ear, just behind the ear drum. Otitis media means inflammation of the middle ear. A puffer attached to the otoscope blows air to see if your thin eardrum moves. With fluid in the middle ear, the eardrum is more rigid and doesn’t move back and forth.
She might also look for signs of infection with another instrument. Itâs called a tympanometer, and it uses sound and air pressure to check for fluid in the middle ear.
In Some Cases: Surgery
Ear infections often go away with time or with the help of antibiotics. However, some people may experience recurrent ear infections and fluid buildup, or have ear infections that wont heal for months.
In children, these issues can lead to hearing loss, behavioral issues, and speech development delays.
In these instances, a surgery called a tympanoplasty may help. In this procedure, a doctor inserts tiny tubes, called tympanostomy tubes or grommets, into the eardrum. These tubes reduce the occurrence of ear infections and allow drainage of excess fluids.
The procedure is very common and poses minimal risks. An ear tube insertion is more common for children, who tend to suffer ear infections more often than adults.
Home treatments for ear infections may be considered for mild cases in adults only.
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