An ear infection is an inflammation that occurs in the air-filled space behind the eardrum (middle ear). These ear infections happen when viruses or bacteria trap and infect fluid from behind the eardrum, which causes pain, swelling, and bulging of the eardrum. This type of infection is common among children since they haven’t yet built up their immune systems to fight off common viruses and bacteria.
Many things can cause ear infections, like colds, the flu, and even allergies, as they all cause congestion and swelling in your nose and throat. If fluid builds up but doesn’t drain properly, it can increase your chances of getting an ear infection.
Ear Infection Causes and Risk Factors
Ear infections commonly occur in children ages 3 months to 3 years. Some 25% of all children may have repeated ear infections until they reach 8 years old, thankfully with no long-term effects on their hearing. However, adults can get ear infections as well, but they don’t happen nearly as often.
Risk factors include age, family history, colds, chronic illnesses, ethnicity, and even allergies. As an adult, go to a doctor as soon as possible if you experience any pain or fluid coming out of your ears. For younger children, there are added risk factors:
Daycare centers. Children can easily be exposed to infectious germs in daycare centers, where there are a lot of other kids.
Bottles and pacifiers. Young children can get an ear infection by drinking out of a bottle and using a pacifier while laying down.
Air quality. Second-hand cigarette smoke and other air pollutants can increase the chance of developing an ear infection.
Ways to Prevent Ear Infections
The best thing you can do to treat an ear infection is by reducing the risk factors and trying to prevent it from happening in the first place. Here are a few ways to prevent ear infections:
- Immunizations – Make sure your child is up to date with their shots and vaccinations. This can help reduce the chance of ear infections.
- Wash your hands frequently – Washing your hands with soap and water will help prevent the spread of germs.
- Avoid bottle feeding in bed – Bottle feeding your baby when they are laying down can increase the chance of ear infections. Feed your baby in an upright, sitting position. Pediatric doctors recommend breastfeeding your baby because breast milk contains antibodies that can help protect your baby from various illnesses and infections.
- Avoid second-hand smoke exposure – Cigarette smoke, as well as other air pollutants, can increase the likelihood of developing an ear infection. So, it would be in your best interest to avoid any air pollution. Using an air purifier may help reduce this risk.
- Decrease pacifier use – Pacifiers increase the chance of ear infections because the sucking inhibits proper Eustachian tube functions. Decreasing or even stopping the use of pacifiers completely will help decrease the chances of ear infections.
- Avoid big daycare centers – It’s easier for children to be exposed to more germs in daycares with a lot of kids. Moving your child to a smaller daycare will reduce the risk of any infections and illnesses.
Ear Infection Symptoms
If your child has a fever of 102ºF or higher, pus or fluid coming out of their ear, hearing loss, or strong pain, take them to a doctor immediately.
Common ear infection symptoms include:
- Pain in the ears
- Rubbing at the ear
- Difficulty sleeping
Ear infections may cause loss of hearing, delayed speech and language development, tears in the eardrum, and the spread of infection. However, these are all temporary, and seeing a doctor will help them go away faster.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding ears or ear infections, Amdahl Hearing can help. If you would like to know any other ear-related information, visit our blog, or contact us online!