Ear infections: Causes, symptoms, remedies, and prevention
How to know if you have an ear infection, and how to remedy it
An ear infection is an uncomfortable and painful infection that affects your middle ear, which is a small part of your ear located behind your eardrum. Although they may develop before you know it, there are steps you can take to rid of them. Learn about how to deal with ear infections here.
Ear infections most often occur during or after an upper respiratory infection, when the Eustachian tube becomes swollen and prevents air from getting to the middle ear. Because of the lack of airflow, suction occurs, forcing fluid to build up in the ear. The fluid gets trapped and allows bacteria and viruses to develop and thus cause an ear infection.
The main symptom that will indicate whether someone has an ear infection is an aching ear. However, there are other primary symptoms that are signs of an ear infection:
- Thick, yellow drainage from the ear (from a burst eardrum – this actually will help your ear heal and will lessen the pain)
- Ear pain/discomfort
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty hearing (due to fluid build up, ears may feel plugged; after fluid is gone, hearing will return to normal)
- Trouble sleeping
- Fussiness (if your baby or child has an ear infection they will most likely be very fussy, pull at their ears, have trouble sleeping, and develop a fever)
Ear infections generally go away on their own. However, there are some steps that you can take to minimize the pain while you are waiting for it to heal.
- Non-prescription pain reliever, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
- Rest and sleep
- A warm wash cloth over the head and ears
Aspirin for children or anyone under 20 is not recommended.
When to see a doctor
If you have a child under the age of 2 who has an ear infection, they may require antibiotics from the doctor. It is recommended that infants and babies visit the doctor for any level of severity of infection, as their Eustachian tubes are shorter, softer, smaller, and more susceptible to fluid build up.
What to do next
After the fluid leaves the ear and the infection goes away, hearing should return as normal. However, if difficulty hearing or ear pain continues, it is highly recommended to return to the doctor. If you are a smoker, there is a crucial way that you can prevent ear infections - stop smoking. Both smoking and putting your child around second hand smoke encourages ear infections.