Is It An Ear Infection Or Covid
It is not possible to tell whether a person has an ear infection or COVID-19 according to their symptoms alone. An individual may also develop ear pain as their only COVID-19 symptom. Their ear pain also may linger after recovering from the disease. To know whether a person has an ear infection, COVID-19, or both, they should take a COVID-19 test.
Middle Ear Infections In Children
Acute Otitis Media
An inflammation in the middle ear is known as “otitis media.” AOM is a middle ear infection caused by bacteria in the middle ear fluid trapped by a Eustachian tube that is not working well. AOM may develop during or after a cold or the flu. With AOM:
- Middle ear infections are extremely common in children younger than 3. But they are infrequent in adults.
- In children, ear infections often recur, particularly if they first develop in early infancy.
- AOM symptoms improve within 48 to 72 hours with or without antibiotic treatment in most children. There does not appear to be any risks of complications for at least the first 2 to 3 days.
- Even after symptoms subside, fluid may persist in the middle ear for weeks to months after AOM onset.
Otitis Media with Effusion
OME occurs when fluid, called an effusion, becomes trapped behind the eardrum in one or both ears. In chronic and severe cases, the fluid is very sticky and is commonly called “glue ear.” With OME:
- Fluid is present. But there is no infection.
- There is usually no pain. Sometimes the only clue that it is present is a feeling of stuffiness in the ears, which can feel like “being under water.”
- Hearing may be temporarily impaired in children. But most children will not have long-term hearing loss.
Chronic Otitis Media
What Causes A Middle
The middle ear connects to the throat by a canal called the eustachiantube. This tube helps even out the pressure between the outer ear and theinner ear. A cold or allergy can irritate the tube or cause the area aroundit to swell. This can keep fluid from draining from the middle ear. Thefluid builds up behind the eardrum. Bacteria and viruses can grow in thisfluid. The bacteria and viruses cause the middle-ear infection.
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Do Allergy Medicines Help Ear Infections
No. Allergy medicines such as antihistamines and are often used to dry out excess fluids in the body. The latest clinical guidelines from the American Academy of Family Physicians do not recommend using antihistamines or decongestants for ear infections. Using these allergy medications to treat ear infections provides little benefit and may cause more harm than good.
Treating Inner Ear Infections
The inner ear is located next to the middle ear within the temporal bone. The inner ear contains the semicircular canals, which are essential to balance and equilibrium.
Inner ear infections are much more likely to be caused by a virus than a bacterial infection. They are much less common than outer ear infections or middle ear infections.
The most common inner ear infections include labyrinthitis or vestibular neuritis, which are slightly different conditions.
Labyrinthitis affects the labyrinth, which is a system of fluid-filled sacs that helps you hear and gives you a sense of balance. Labyrinthitis can cause both hearing changes and dizziness, or vertigo.
Vestibular neuritis is an inner ear infection that affects the vestibular nerve and usually causes dizziness and balance issues but no hearing changes.
There is no specific diagnostic test to identify an inner ear infection, so misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis is common.
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How Do You Prevent Ear Infections
You may be able to prevent ear some ear infections if you:
- Use earplugs when swimming or diving
- Dry ears thoroughly after swimming
- Never use cotton swabs inside the ear canal
- Wash hands properly to prevent the spread of viruses
- Use soap and warm water and wash for at least 20 seconds
How Do I Know If I Have An Ear Infection
Bacteria, viruses, or fungi can cause ear infections. But because you cant see inside your ear with the naked eye, your symptoms may be the only way to suspect if you have one. And they can vary depending on the area of the ear thats infected.
If you or your child have symptoms like these, an ear infection could be a possibility. To confirm an ear infection, a healthcare provider typically needs to look inside your ear using a medical device called an otoscope. They can also check to see if a bacteria, virus, or something else is causing your infection.
Keep in mind that more serious symptoms can also develop that require prompt medical attention. More on these later.
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Side Effects Of Antibiotics
- The most common side effects of nearly all antibiotics are gastrointestinal problems, including cramps, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
- Allergic reactions can occur with all antibiotics, but are especially common with penicillin drugs. These reactions can range from mild skin rashes to rare but severe, even life-threatening, anaphylactic shock.
- Some drugs, including certain over-the-counter medications, interact with antibiotics. Parents should tell the doctor about all medications their child is taking.
Treatment For Otitis Media With Effusion
Otitis media with effusion is fluid behind the middle ear . It usually resolves on its own without treatment, especially when it follows an acute ear infection. Antibiotics are not helpful for most cases of OME.
Clinical practice guidelines for OME recommend the following treatments:
- Watchful Waiting for OME. The child is typically monitored for the first 3 months. If OME lasts longer than 3 months, a hearing test should be conducted. Even if OME lasts for longer than 3 months, the condition generally resolves on its own without any long-term effects on language or development. The doctor will re-evaluate the child at periodic intervals to determine if there is risk for hearing loss.
- Drug Treatment. Antibiotics, decongestants, antihistamines, and corticosteroids do not help and are not recommended for routine management of OME. Antibiotic ear drops are helpful for treating ear infections that may occur in children with tympanostomy tubes. Topical antibiotics work better than oral antibiotics for treating the discharge that can occur with this type of infection.
- Surgery. Ear tube insertion may be recommended when fluid builds up behind your child’s eardrum and does not go away after 3 months or longer. Fluid buildup may cause some hearing loss while it is present. However, most children do not have long-term damage to their hearing or their ability to speak even when the fluid remains for many months.
Tonsillectomy is not recommended for OME treatment.
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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
To Use The Eardrops Follow These Steps:
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Chronic Suppurative Otitis Media
In some severe cases after eardrum rupture, perforation may lead to ongoing discharge, which is pus-like. This drainage is often called otorrhea. When this happens, the bacteria involved are most commonly P. aeruginosa or S. aureus. This infection may also spread into the mastoid bone and usually requires injectable antibiotic treatment and sometimes surgery.
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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Symptoms Of A Middle Ear Infection
In most cases, the symptoms of a middle ear infection develop quickly and resolve in a few days. This is known as acute otitis media. The main symptoms include:
- a lack of energy
- slight hearing loss – if the middle ear becomes filled with fluid
In some cases, a hole may develop in the eardrum and pus may run out of the ear. The earache, which is caused by the build-up of fluid stretching the eardrum, then resolves.
Infants Eight Weeks Or Younger
Young infants are at increased risk of severe sequelae from suppurative AOM. Middle ear pathogens found in neonates younger than two weeks include group B streptococcus, gram-negative enteric bacteria, and Chlamydia trachomatis.41 Febrile neonates younger than two weeks with apparent AOM should have a full sepsis workup, which is indicated for any febrile neonate.41 Empiric amoxicillin is acceptable for infants older than two weeks with upper respiratory tract infection and AOM who are otherwise healthy.42
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What Happens If My Child Keeps Getting Ear Infections
To keep a middle ear infection from coming back, it helps to limit some of the factors that might put your child at risk, such as not being around people who smoke and not going to bed with a bottle. In spite of these precautions, some children may continue to have middle ear infections, sometimes as many as five or six a year. Your doctor may want to wait for several months to see if things get better on their own but, if the infections keep coming back and antibiotics arent helping, many doctors will recommend a surgical procedure that places a small ventilation tube in the eardrum to improve air flow and prevent fluid backup in the middle ear. The most commonly used tubes stay in place for six to nine months and require follow-up visits until they fall out.
If placement of the tubes still doesnt prevent infections, a doctor may consider removing the adenoids to prevent infection from spreading to the eustachian tubes.
Ear Infection Treatment Options
Due to the variety of ear infections, patients may be given a few different treatment options. Middle ear infections do not always require prescription medication due to the bodys natural ability to fight off the infection. Your doctor or pediatrician may recommend a method of treatment called watchful waiting. This involves two to three days of rest, drinking lots of fluids, and the use of over-the-counter pain relievers as needed. If after two to three days the patient is not improving, the doctor may write a prescription for antibiotics. Alternatively, the physician may write a prescription for an antibiotic but recommend waiting two to three days before filling in case the ear infection clears up in the meantime.
In some cases, using a tympanostomy tube may be necessary to prevent fluid from building up in the ear and to assist with relieving air pressure near the eustachian tube.
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When Do Children Need Tubes In Their Ears
If your child has frequent ear infections, or if they have trouble hearing because of ongoing fluid in the middle ear, they may need a tube inserted through the eardrum and into the middle ear. The tube helps to keep air pressure normal on both sides of the ear drum and helps fluid drain from the middle ear.
Putting tubes in requires a brief operation by an ear, nose and throat surgeon. Children can usually go home the same day.
Anatomy Of An Ear Infection
Ear infections occur when there is fluid buildup in the ear that causes blockages and inflammation. The ear is divided into the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear. Infection can occur in any of these areas, but bacterial infections of the inner ear are extremely rare.
Bacteria, viruses, and fungi can cause infections in the ear. Infections can be brought on by an illness, such as a cold or allergies.
Ear infections generally occur when bacteria, viruses, or fungi gain entry into one of the three areas of the ear and cause infection. Most ear infections don’t require treatment and will clear up within a week or two.
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Can Middle Ear Infections Be Prevented
It’s not possible to prevent middle ear infections, but there are some things you can do that may reduce your child’s risk of developing the condition. These include:
- make sure your child is up-to-date with their routine vaccinations particularly the pneumococcal vaccine and the DTaP/IPV/Hib vaccine
- avoid exposing your child to smoky environments
- don’t give your child a dummy once they’re older than six to 12 months old
- don’t feed your child while they’re lying flat on their back
- if possible, feed your baby with breast milk rather than formula milk
Avoiding contact with other children who are unwell may also help reduce your child’s chances of catching an infection that could lead to a middle ear infection.
What Happens If An Ear Infection Is Left Untreated
Fluid buildup in the ear can be damaging even if theres no infection and may lead to a ruptured eardrum and hearing loss. So, its important to see the doctor if symptoms remain after finishing the antibiotics. Theyll likely want to take a look in your ear and learn more about your symptoms.
Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may recommend you see an ear, nose and throat doctor. The ENT doctor may recommend surgery to place small metal or plastic tubes in the ear canal to make it easier for the fluid to drain out. Your doctor may also recommend ear tube surgery for your child if they have recurrent ear infections.
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Home Remedies For Ear Pain
Before antibiotics, parents used home remedies to treat the pain of ear infections. Now, with current concern over antibiotic overuse, many of these simple remedies are again popular:
- Parents can press a warm water bottle or warm bag of salt against the ear. Such old-fashioned remedies may help to ease ear pain.
- Due to the high risk of burns, ear candles should not be used to remove wax from ears. These candles are not safe or effective for treatment of ear infections or other ear conditions.
- Researchers are studying the protective value of probiotics especially lactobacilli strains such as acidophilus. But it is important not to give your child any herbal remedies or dietary supplements without consulting with the pediatrician.
What Are Complications Of Ear Infections
Complications of ear infections are uncommon with proper treatment. Complications may include:
- Hearing loss: usually temporary but may become permanent if the eardrum or middle ear structures are damaged
- Infection that spreads to nearby tissues, such as infection of the mastoid bone, which helps drain middle ear fluid
- Eardrum tears: most will heal on their own within a few days, though in some cases surgery is needed to repair it
- Speech or developmental delays in infants and toddlers if hearing is impaired
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What Causes Chronic Middle Ear Infection Or Inflammation
- The Eustachian tube normally prevents the accumulation of fluid by allowing fluid to drain through the tube.
- Chronic otitis media develops over time, and often starts with a chronic middle ear effusion that does not resolve.
- This persistent fluid will often become contaminated with bacteria, and the bacteria found in chronic otitis media are often different from those found in acute otitis media.
- Therefore, anything that disturbs the function of the Eustachian tube can lead to chronic otitis media.
- In some individuals that are ill from other diseases, and there is pus draining from the ear, there is a danger that otitis media may invade the mastoid bone and reach the brain.
- These individuals need to be seen urgently by a health care professional.
- Do not delay treatment by trying home remedies.