Ear Infection: Everything You Need To Know

Have you ever felt a severe pain inside your ear? Perhaps it is itchy and maybe you have noticed gunk leaking out of it? Well, these are all signs of the dreaded ear infection. While ear infections may not seem like a serious issue, they can cause severe pain and discomfort. If you are unlucky enough to travel by plane with an undiagnosed ear infection, then you are in for an incredibly long and excruciating journey. To understand why this is, you need to know what causes ear infections, the impact that they can have and how they can be avoided.

Causes Of Ear Infections

There are various causes of ear infections. One of the main reasons for getting an ear infection is putting things in your ear that should not be there. This could be anything from your finger to a q-tip or even a paper clip. It truly is astonishing when you explore some of the items that people use to clean their inner ear. The reality is that you shouldn’t be using anything to clean the inside of your ear. The ear is a remarkably sensitive place and a single scratch to the inside can create issues. This can quickly lead to an infection.

You should only be cleaning your ear if you have a build up of hardened ear wax. Even then, this should be completed by a professional.

Another cause of an ear infection would be the ear getting moist, potentially due to trapped water. This is quite common when you go away on holiday and spend too much time in the pool. It’s also possible if you don’t clean your ears thoroughly. When this happens, the moisture causes bacteria and fungus to build leading to an unpleasant infection.

The other main cause will be an infection somewhere else that spreads to the ear. This will often be the result of poor hygiene or the continued development of the cold or the flu. If you have flu-like symptoms and then notice that your ear is starting to ache, there’s a good chance you have developed an infection.

The Main Types Of Ear Infections

There are three main types of ear infections. These are otitis media, swimmer’s ear, and labyrinthitis. These are listed from the most common to the least.

Otitis media is a middle ear infection. It may cause anything from nausea to issues sleeping or even tinnitus. Tinnitus, will trigger sensory changes and mean that you hear sounds that are not actually there. This could be anything from ringing to a buzzing. With an ear infection, it is quite common to hear your heartbeat or breathing echoing in your ear.

Swimmer’s ear, as you might have guessed, is the one caused by moisture. This is found in the outer ear. It triggers, pain, redness and the discharge that you might find on your pillow. It is unpleasant but this type of infection is mostly harmless.

Finally, if you have an infection in the inner ear, then you might have problems with vertigo, vomiting or nausea and this can be quite serious. A problem like this should be addressed immediately by a doctor.

How Long Will They Last

You’ll be pleased to hear that most ear infections do not last long at all. Indeed, it’s quite common for them to disappear within a matter of days. That’s why if you are an adult and you immediately head to the doctors with an ear infection, they may not provide you with anything. Instead, they will wait to see if the issue gets worse. Some ear infections can last for ten days and most will be gone in about two weeks. On rare occasions, they can last longer or they can be recurring and it is at this point that they become a more serious issue.

Groups Of People Most At Risk From Ear Infections

Due to biological factors, ear infections are quite common in children even though adults can also develop this issue. If a child is tugging at their ear in pain, it’s quite possible that they are suffering from an infection. Those between six months and eighteen months are the most likely to develop an issue here and they are also at risk of an infection becoming more serious.

Left untreated, recurring infections can cause issues with development and even permanent hearing loss. As such, it is essential that children always get checked out by a doctor if they have developed an ear infection. A doctor will be able to advise you on the treatment plan necessary.

Other people more at risk of an ear infection include those with a damaged immune system or those around environments that cause irritation to the ear. Smoke and fumes are the main concern here but anything like dust and pollen can also create this type of havoc. As such, if you do find that your child is constantly developing ear infections it might be worth exploring the environment in the home. You can examine whether any changes or improvements can be made.

Generally speaking, the top priority should always be ensuring that an ear infection does not spread. It’s easy to unintentionally make an ear infection far worse. One of the ways that you can do this is by trying to clean out your ear. Instead, you should take steps to limit the discomfort and get any further treatment from a doctor.

Treatment Options

In most cases, home treatment will be enough for an ear infection. For instance, a warm compress will typically relieve the pain and allow a person to rest. This can help speed up the recovery process. However, if an infection is particularly severe or growing worse, a doctor will provide antibiotics. These will usually be given in the form of ear drops, used regularly through the day. After a couple of days using ear drops, you will usually experience significant relief. Aside from this, over the counter meds can be enough to clear the pain.

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