Chances are you have experienced an ear infection at least once, but what exactly is an Ear Infection? Ear infections are bacterial or viral infections that can occur throughout multiple parts of the ear. They can occur in the middle of the ear, the section just behind the eardrum, or in the inner or outer ear. They are typically short but can be quite painful while they last. Some people even suffer from chronic ear infections that refuse to clear up or recur. Suffers of chronic ear infections may experience damage to the middle and inner ear which can be permanent. For those who do not suffer chronically, most infections will clear up on their own.
What Cases an Ear Infection?
An ear infection is caused by the presence of a bacterium or virus in the middle ear. The infection is often triggered by another illness such as a cold, flu or allergies. These illnesses cause congestion and swelling of the nasal passages, throat and eustachian tubes, which can result in swelling and blockages. The eustachian tubes are responsible for regulating air pressure in the middle ear, refreshing air in the ear, and draining normal secretions from the middle of the ear. When these tubes become swollen during illness, they can become blocked, which causes fluid to build up in the middle of the ear. You have an ear infection when the fluid builds up and becomes infected.
In addition to illness being one of the leading risk factors, there are a few other ways you may be at risk of contracting an ear infection. People with seasonal allergies may experience infection during the fall and winter months, or people who live in places with poor air quality can be more susceptible. Differences in bone structure or the presence of a cleft palate can also make it more difficult for the eustachian tubes to drain. Also, children between the ages of six months to two years are at a greater risk of contracting an ear infection due to the shape and size of their eustachian tubes.
What are the Symptoms?
When it comes to an ear infection, the onset of symptoms is usually quite rapid. Adults will experience ear pain, fluid drainage from the ear and trouble hearing as the infection sets in. They will also notice a persistent feeling of pressure on the inside of the ear. Symptoms may come and go and can occur in one or both ears. If you have a double ear infection, meaning both ears are infected, you will experience more severe pain. Symptoms may be harder to identify if you suffer from chronic ear infections.
Children are oftentimes more likely to have an ear infection then an adult would, however it can be difficult to identify if your child is too young to express their pain. Some things to look out for in children include tugging or pulling at the ear, trouble sleeping, crying more than usual, trouble responding to sounds, loss of balance, fever, headache or loss of appetite. Because children’s symptoms can be harder to identify, make sure to take them to an Urgent Care Lexington KY to ensure that an ear infection is, in fact, what they are suffering from. The doctors at your nearest Urgent Care will be able to identify if your child has an ear infection or if their symptoms point to something different.
How to Treat an Ear Infection
Most ear infections will clear up on their own without intervention, but a few home remedies can help speed up the process and relieve symptoms. Here are some of the ways to help treat your ear infection from home:
- Warm Compress: Try applying a warm cloth to the affected ear in fifteen-minute intervals to ease discomfort and encourage draining.
- Pain Killers: Try an over-the-counter pain medication like Advil or Tylenol to help with pain.
- Ear Drops: You can find over the counter ear drops that will help with the pain and can even encourage clogged fluids to drain out faster.
- Decongestants: A decongestant can help loosen fluids and clogs that are in the inner ear. It can also help take away some of the pressure associated with ear infections.
If your symptoms don’t improve with at-home treatments, or if they get worse, head over to your local Urgent Care to get checked out. They may prescribe antibiotics if your symptoms aren’t going away on their own.
Ear infections are something that most of us will experience at least once in our lives. Frequent washing of your hands, avoiding large crowds, getting vaccinated and avoiding secondhand smoke are all things you can do to avoid contracting a painful ear infection. If you do manage to contract an ear infection just know that the condition will likely clear up on its own and you will be back to normal in no time!