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What causes an ear infection, what are the symptoms and how can I get treated?

What is an ear infection?


●Otitis externa or outer ear canal infection usually results from swimming and water remaining in the ear afterward. This may be caused by bacteria or fungi. The outer ear becomes red, warm, and painful.


●Otitis media or middle ear infection affects the air-filled area behind your ear drum (tympanic membrane). This area houses 3 small bones that connect the eardrum to your hearing apparatus behind. These bones help amplify or reduce the volume of sound you hear.


Otitis media:


● This is usually the result of other infections like flu, cold or allergies that spread through a thin tube called the eustachian tube that connects the nasal cavity to your middle ear and helps to balance the pressure on both sides of your ear drum. This tube can be equated to the port or hole you find on your box speakers that help balance the pressure on both sides of the diaphragm. These tubes also help to keep the air in the cavity refreshed and drain secretions from the middle ear.

● When this tube gets blocked, fluid and pressure build up in the middle ear. This fluid can get infected and cause symptoms. In children, this tube is narrow and straight and is more prone to getting blocked and infected.

● Adenoid glands that are near the opening of these tubes can also contribute to them getting blocked often

● The infection that develops may be bacterial or viral or there may be no infection at all:

- Otitis media with discharge, swelling and fluid buildup without infection
- Chronic (recurring) otitis media with discharge occurs or fluid remains in the middle ear and symptoms keep returning without infection
- Chronic suppurative otitis media which has an infection and may end up damaging the eardrum




● Pain in the ear
● Lack of hunger
● Irritable or crying
● Sleep problems while lying down
● Fever

● Discharge from the ear
● Hearing problems


Risk Factors:


● Children between 6 months and 2 years of age
● Children who visit child care facilities with other children
● Bottle feeding while lying down
● Seasonal factors
● Poor air quality
● Cleft palate
● Adenoid or Sinus infections




It is important to understand that although this is a common condition, leaving it untreated, especially when it is recurring can lead to serious consequences that affect the quality of life:

● Hearing reduction
● Development & Speech problems
● Spread of infection to the bone or brain
● Hole or tear in the eardrum




● Stay safe from the common cold and other illnesses
● Hygiene and hand washing habits in children
● Avoid smoke in the environment
● Breastfeeding till at least 6 months of age



Your doctor will evaluate the severity of the condition, and the chance of recurrence and provide you with the right medication or suggest corrections, as per your child’s situation, age and weight. It is important to get this evaluated with your doctor.

Dr. Poonam Gautam
ENT, Head and Neck Surgery
Meet The Doctor
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