Ear Infection [Otitis Media] An ear infection occurs when a bacterial or viral infection affects the middle ear the sections of your ear just behind the eardrum. Ear infections can be painful because of inflammation and fluid buildup in the middle ear. Ear infections can be chronic or acute. Acute ear infections are painful but short in duration. Chronic ear infections do not clear up, or they recur many times. Chronic ear infections can cause permanent damage to the middle and inner ear. Ear infections occur when one of your Eustachian tubes becomes swollen or blocked and fluid builds up in your middle ear. Eustachian tubes are small tubes that run from each ear directly to the back of the throat. The causes of Eustachian tube blockage include: allergies, colds, sinus infections, excess mucus, tobacco smoking, Infected or swollen adenoids (tissue near your tonsils that trap harmful bacteria and viruses).
Treatment: Most mild ear infections clear up without intervention. Some of the following methods are effective in relieving the symptoms of a mild ear infection: ? applying a warm cloth to the affected ear ? taking over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen ? using over-the-counter or prescription ear drops to relieve pain ? taking over-the-counter decongestants such as pseudoephedrine. If your symptoms get worse or do not improve, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor. He or she may prescribe antibiotics if your ear infection is chronic or does not appear to be improving. If a child under the age of 2 presents with ear infection symptoms, a doctor will likely give him or her antibiotics as well. It is important to finish your entire course of antibiotics if they are prescribed. Surgery may be an option if your ear infection is not eliminated with the usual medical treatments or if you have many ear infections over a short period of time. Most often, tubes are placed in the ears to allow fluid to drain out. In cases that involve enlarged adenoids, surgical removal of the adenoids may be necessary.
Statistics: 80% to 82% of all children have ear infections before the age of three, which represents 16M annual episodes in the US alone. 20-30% of children have an average of 6 recurrences before the age of seven. Ear infections are the most common cause for a sick child visit to the doctor and accounts for half of all pediatric antibiotics. The World Health Organization (WHO) attributes 28K annual deaths to complications resulting from ear infections.