Ear Infections: Types, Causes & Treatment

By April 13, 2016ear infections
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Ear infection infographicYour child is tugging on their ears, feverish, having a hard time sleeping, and in a foul mood. A quick visit to the doctor yields two words every parent hates to hear: ear infection. Although more common in young children, ear infections can happen to anyone. And not all ear infections are created equally! Here’s what you need to know:

There are different types of ear infections

In simple terms, your ear canal connects to your throat via eustachian tube, and is separated by your eardrum. The area beyond the eardrum is referred to as the inner or middle ear. A person can have an infection of the middle ear (otitis media) or an infection of the ear canal (otitis externa) in front of the eardrum. They’re fairly similar as far as symptoms go, differing primarily in their location, and what causes them. Symptoms can include:

    • Ear pain (infants and children will tug at their ears)
    • Diarrhea or vomiting (infants)
    • Fever
    • Trouble hearing
    • Appetite loss
    • Difficulty sleeping
    • Pain while eating (in infants)
    • Itchy ears
  • Discharge (otitis externa)

Causes of otitis media:

Inner ear infections are caused by fluid buildups behind the eardrum. If the fluid does not drain, it becomes a breeding ground for bacteria. This usually happens during a cold. Our eustachian tubes have a downward slant that allow fluid to drain, as adults. In infants, these tubes are a horizontal line, which makes it much harder for their ears to drain properly. This is why ear infections are so common in infants. Some children develop “glue ear”, where mucus is permanently trapped behind the ear. They are much more prone to infection, and may require tubes to help the fluid drain.

Causes  of otitis externa:

These types of infection often happens out of the blue, without any apparent cause. It’s generally caused by bacteria, although you can have a fungal or yeast infection. Water or soap in your ear may cause it to itch, so you scratch it. This causes inflammation and can introduce bacteria to your ear. Swimmer’s ear, humid weather, or skin conditions like eczema can also cause this type of ear infection.

Treatment for ear infections:

Depending on the severity of the infection, it may just be allowed to run its course. In most cases, an ear infection will run its course in a few days. Antibiotics can actually cause more problems than they solve as far as symptoms (possibly causing a rash, diarrhea, etc). Overuse of antibiotics can also contribute to the development of drug resistant pathogens – so they’re only used if absolutely necessary. If needed an oral antibiotic or ear drops are prescribed.

If you or your child has an ear infection that isn’t clearing up on its own after 3 days, they’re less than 2 years of age, or it seems to be very severe, come to the urgent care. We’ll get you taken care of.