Why Adults Get Ear Infections
Ear infections are often considered a childhood disease. It almost seems a rite of passage for children to experience repeat ear infections. Then, around the beginning of their teenage years, it often stops entirely. By the time a person hits adulthood, it is quite common to be decades of years removed from the last time he or she experienced an ear infection. It almost seems as though it is impossible for adults to get an ear infection, right? Unfortunately, although not as common in adults as it is in children, it is still possible for adults to suffer an ear infection. In fact, around 20% of ear infections occur in adults. This begs the question, why can adults still get them?
How Adults Get an Ear InfectionAdult ear infections are just like the ear infections a person would have gotten when he or she was a child. Most middle ear infections are caused by either bacteria or viruses. A common cold, the flu, or allergy symptoms that cause congestion and swelling of the nasal passages, throat, and eustachian tubes can sometimes lead to an infection. Anything that makes the nose stuffy has a tendency to cause swelling and blockage of the eustachian tubes. Swelling from colds or allergies can keep the eustachian tubes from opening and this leads to pressure changes and the accumulation of fluid in the middle ear. This pressure and fluid will cause pain and sometimes persistent fluid can lead to an infection.
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Why Dont Doctors Give Antibiotics For Middle Ear Infections Just In Case
Often, the infection will go away by itself after about 4 days. On average, children who take antibiotics have ear pain for only about 12 hours less than children who dont take antibiotics.
On the other hand, if antibiotics are prescribed, some children will have side effects. Using antibiotics can also cause bacteria to become resistant to them, meaning that the antibiotics might not work in future.
For these reasons, antibiotics are not generally recommended for middle ear infections unless your child is at risk of developing complications. For more information, speak to your doctor or visit the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care website.
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They typically take about 1 to 2 months to fully heal. However, if youre really worried about infections or the new piercings healing/ closing up, you should wait at least 6 weeks before changing the earrings or even taking them out.
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Dirty Ears Vs Ear Mites
Regularly checking your cats ears enables you to spot any concerns as they arise and helps you differentiate between wax build-up and mites.
A healthy ear should have little to no wax if it does, any present wax will be pale brown. The ear canal should also be light pink in color. On the flip side, ear mites often lead to lots of dark-colored wax or discharge, and inflammation from resident mites can lead to redness and soreness.
If youre unsure, dont be afraid to visit your vet so your kittys ears can receive a more thorough check-up.
Are There Any Differences In Getting Ear Tubes As An Adult Versus As A Child Do You Still Have To Avoid Swimming
Dr. Wang: They function pretty much the same for kids as adults. You still have to have relative water precautions. You can swim but it may be safest to use ear plugs or a swim band to keep water out. The main difference is adults typically do fine with ear tube placement in the office. There’s no need for an OR or general anesthesia like there traditionally has been for kids. Actually, there’s a new procedure for placing ear tubes in kids that allows us to do it super quickly with local anesthesia only. So now we can do that in clinic as well.
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Check If Its 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|
|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|
Can Sinus Infection Make You Dizzy
When you have a sinus problem, it is possible that the pressure in your ear can become too great and cause dizziness.The symptoms of this condition vary from person to person but one thing they all share? A sense of imbalance due both efforts needed by their brains inner ears as well as those felt while standing still or walking around without any physical activity!
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What Is An Inner Ear Infection
First, its important to understand what makes up the inner ear.
The inner ear is responsible for hearing and balance. It consists of semicircular canals, cochlea, and vestibules.
Collectively, these parts are known as the inner ear. It can become infected by bacteria or viruses. Or, it can seem infected if theres inflammation happening.
Ear infections are more common in children and for them, they tend to go away quickly and on their own. The same isnt always true for adults.
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Should I Use Antibiotics For An Ear Infection
Antibiotics are a medicine prescribed by your doctor. If youre dealing with an ear infection caused by bacteria, youll likely need antibiotics. They are the best way of quickly getting rid of a bacterial infection and preventing it from spreading to other parts of the body.
The catch is that antibiotics dont work against viruses if you use antibiotics on a viral ear infection, it can actually make the infection worse. Overuse of antibiotics can lead to a condition called antibiotic resistance, which means that the medicine becomes less effective at fighting off bacteria.
Thats why doctors are careful about using antibiotics wisely and may not immediately prescribe them for ear infections.
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How Do You Check For Inner Ear Infection
A doctor will look into the ear with an instrument called an otoscope. An otoscope helps see inside the ear canal and eardrum to see if there is redness or swelling, build up of earwax, or if there are any abnormalities in the ear. The doctor may gently puff air against the eardrum to see if it moves, which is normal.
How To Safely Ease Ear Infection Pain At Home
While at-home care cant cure ear infections, there are a few things you can do to help alleviate the pain and discomfort they cause, such as:
- Apply a cool or warm compressAlternate cool and warm compresses at 10-minute intervals to help reduce pain and inflammation. If you find one temperature works better than the other, just use that one.
- Try over-the-counter pain relieversAcetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen can often relieve the pain associated with an ear infection. Follow the dosing instructions on the label. For children younger than 2 years, check with your doctor first to find out which medication and dose are safe.
- Elevate the head for sleepingResting or laying with the head in an elevated position can help fluid drain out of the ear. This helps alleviate pressure and pain in the middle ear, where most ear infections occur. For young children and infants, elevate their mattress using a rolled-up towel do not place a pillow or towel directly under their head.
- Stay hydratedDrinking plenty of water is a good health habit, but its particularly important when trying to ease your or your childs symptoms of an ear infection. Not only does the extra hydration help thin the mucus inside the ear, but repeated swallowing also helps clear fluids from the Eustachian tubes and alleviate pressure.
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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|
What Do You Suggest For People Who Feel Like There Might Be Moisture In Their Ears
Dr. Wang: You can usually feel it if there’s some water in your ear, right? If you notice that, turn your head to the side and try to shake the water out or let it drain out. You can also place a tissue paper or thin dry cloth around your finger and wipe outside the opening of your ear with your head turned sideways. If you still feel it, or have a history of getting a lot of outer ear infections, use drops to dry out your ears. You can buy Swim-EAR® or other brands over the counter, or you can look up how to make your own by mixing together rubbing alcohol and vinegar. A cool or warm hair dryer may also be effective.
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How Dangerous Are Untreated Ear Infections In Adults
Itchiness or pain. Trouble hearing. Fluid leaking out of the ears. These symptoms may have been all too common when we were kids, but as an adult, the signs of an ear infection are probably something you have not felt in quite some time. While ear infectionsmiddle ear infections in particularare more common in children, they are not unheard of in adults. In this blog post we explore the risks and complications of leaving an ear infection untreated in adults.
In our last blog, we talked about the difference between middle ear infections , and outer ear infections , more commonly known as swimmers ear. Otitis media is caused by either bacteria or viruses. A common cold, the flu, or allergy symptoms that cause congestion and swelling of the nasal passages, throat, and eustachian tubes can sometimes lead to an infection. Anything that makes the nose stuffy has a tendency to cause swelling and blockage of the eustachian tubes. Swelling from colds or allergies can keep the eustachian tubes from opening and this leads to pressure changes and the accumulation of fluid in the middle ear. This pressure and fluid will cause pain and sometimes persistent fluid can lead to an infection.
Untreated chronic ear infections can also cause tears in the eardrum. These tears will typically heal within a few days, though in more extreme cases, surgical repair might be required.
Ear Infection Treatments
Ear Infection Prevention
Treatments For Outer Ear Infection
Outer ear infections may heal on their own without treatment. Antibiotic eardrops are the most common treatment for an outer ear infection that hasnt healed on its own. They can be prescribed by your doctor.
Doctors may also prescribe antibiotic drops mixed with steroids to reduce swelling in the ear canal. The ear drops are typically used several times a day for 7 to 10 days.
If a fungus is the cause of the outer ear infection, your doctor will prescribe antifungal ear drops. This type of infection is more common in people with diabetes or a depleted immune system.
To reduce symptoms, its important to keep water out of the ears while the infection is healing.
Over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can be used to reduce pain. In extreme cases, prescription pain medication may be prescribed.
The most important part of home treatment for outer ear infections is prevention. Keeping the ear dry as much as possible decreases the risk of infection.
Other tips to keep in mind include:
- using a cotton ball or soft ear plugs to prevent water from entering the ear while showering or bathing
- using a swim cap
- avoiding scratching the inner ear, even with cotton swabs
- avoiding removing ear wax on your own
- using an eardrop mixture of rubbing alcohol and/or vinegar after swimming to help dry up excess water
- toweling the head and ears dry after swimming
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How Is An Ear Infection Diagnosed
Your healthcare provider will look at your or your childs ear using an instrument called an otoscope. A healthy eardrum will be pinkish gray in color and translucent . If infection is present, the eardrum may be inflamed, swollen or red.
Your healthcare provider may also check the fluid in the middle ear using a pneumatic otoscope, which blows a small amount of air at the eardrum. This should cause the eardrum to move back and forth. The eardrum will not move as easily if there is fluid inside the ear.
Another test, tympanometry, uses air pressure to check for fluid in the middle ear. This test doesnt test hearing. If needed, your healthcare provider will order a hearing test, performed by an audiologist, to determine possible hearing loss if you or your child has had long lasting or frequent ear infections or fluid in the middle ears that is not draining.
Your healthcare provider will also check your throat and nasal passage and listen to your breathing with a stethoscope for signs of upper respiratory infections.
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Left untreated, an ear hematoma will resolve in time as the fluid is absorbed back into the animals body.
However, a large hematoma could take months to heal and cause considerable discomfort to your pet.
If your dog or cat has an aural hematoma, they need to see a veterinarian as soon as possible.
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Any Other Recent Innovations In The Treatment Of Ear Infections
Dr. Wang: There’s a procedure I’ve been doing for a few years called Eustachian tube dilation. Using endoscopic guidance through the nose, you insert a balloon in the Eustachian tube, blow it up and leave it there for up to two minutes. This can address the Eustachian tube dysfunction that leads to middle ear infections. I’ve found it works in about 50% of patients, so it doesn’t work for everyone. But it’s so noninvasive, it’s a good place to start with certain patients who are good candidates for it. There’s also a new drug that is almost like a gel that you can squirt into the ear canal. It slowly dissolves and may be easier to get into those really clogged areas than traditional drops.
Home Care To Relieve Ear Pain
If you have ear pain, itâs a good idea to talk with your doctor about it.
Thereâs little research to say whether or not home care works, but most doctors agree these treatments are safe to try yourself:
A cool or warm compress. Soak a washcloth in either cool or warm water, wring it out, and then put it over the ear that’s bothering you. Try both temperatures to see if one helps you more than the other.
A heating pad: Lay your painful ear on a warm, not hot, heating pad.
Over-the-counter ear drops with pain relievers. If they help at all, itâs only briefly. You shouldnât use these drops if your eardrum has a tear or hole, so check with your doctor first.
Pain reliever. Acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen can often relieve the pain of an earache. Ask your doctor which is right for you.
Chew gum. If youâre on an airplane or driving at high altitudes and your ear pain is from the change in air pressure, chew some gum. It can help lower that pressure and ease your symptoms.
Sleep upright. While it may sound strange, resting or sleeping sitting up rather than lying down can encourage fluid in your ear to drain. This could ease pressure and pain in your middle ear. Prop yourself up in bed with a stack of pillows, or sleep in an armchair thatâs a bit reclined.
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