When a viral or bacterial infection compromises the middle ear, or section behind the eardrum, it causes inflammation, fluid buildup, and pain. Known as ear infections, they are among the more common ear ailments, especially among children. Here, learn what family doctors want patients to understand about these infections, including what causes them and how they are treated.
What to Know About Ear Infections
Why do they occur?
The middle section of the ear features tiny bones that pass sound vibrations to the inner ear, allowing a person to hear. This space connects to the upper respiratory tract through the Eustachian tube. If the tube becomes blocked because of a cold, allergy, sinus infection, smoking-related irritation, air pressure change, or excessive mucus, it becomes swollen and allows fluid to accumulate.
Trapped fluid provides a breeding area for germs. These germs can cause swelling, pain, and other symptoms such as fever and pus buildup within the middle ear.
Why are infections more prevalent in children than adults?
Infants and children are more susceptible to ear infections because their Eustachian tubes are not fully developed, meaning air cannot flow through them efficiently to keep their middle ears dry and germ-free.
Too-soft or underdeveloped tubes can become blocked and compromise the air flowing from behind the nose through the tubes, preventing middle ear dryness. This section of the ear subsequently becomes warm, damp, and ideal for germ production.
How are infections treated?
Pain relievers with inflammation-reducing properties alleviate discomfort and swelling. Warm compress applications help soothe pain, while drinking more water flushes germs from the body. Anesthetic drops can also be used to clear the infection and relieve pain.
Home remedies may provide relief as well, such as sleeping on the unaffected ear and using a hairdryer on the cool setting to dry out fluid. For chronic or severe infections, antibiotics and ear tubes that keep the Eustachian tubes open might be necessary.
When should I see a doctor?
Schedule a family doctor visit if symptoms persist for more than three days or continue to worsen. Serious ear pain, fever over 102.2 degrees Fahrenheit, hearing loss, and discharge such as bloody fluid or pus call for an urgent care visit. If the infection has affected a child less than six months old, see a family doctor immediately.
Make an appointment at HDR Healthcare Network for a severe ear infection or another health issue treatable at urgent care. The family doctors have served patients throughout the Bronx since 2013. They provide family medicine, senior care, home health services, and internal medicine. Call the urgent care center today at (929) 256-5005 or visit the family doctors online for additional information.