Most of us have had at least one or two ear infections in our lives. They can be painful, affect our hearing and drive us nuts! Here are a few key things to know about what ear infections are and how to help them.
The ear is divided into two sections. The outer ear is the part you can see plus the ear canal down to the tympanic membrane, and the middle ear is the part behind the tympanic membrane. There are two types of ear infections- outer ear infections “swimmers ear” (otitis externa) and middle ear infections (otitis media).
Otitis externa is often associated with swimming and is common in school aged children. Possible symptoms are ear pain, red/hot ear, blocked feeling or discharge from the ear. It is most commonly treated with ear drops, keeping the ear dry and using paracetamol or ibuprofen for pain. You can help prevent otitis externa by using ear drops after swimming.
Middle ear infections usually occur in younger children. When they have a cold the germs travel up the tube that connects the nose and ears and can become trapped causing the infection. Because children this age are prone to colds it can be common for them to have multiple infections a year. Symptoms may be fever, pulling/rubbing ears, discharge from the ear or poor feeding. Otitis media can be tricky to diagnose – especially in small ears. Sometimes your doctor may need to see you again to get a better look. Most cases will only need pain relief with paracetamol and ibuprofen. Your child may or may not need antibiotics- this depends on the case and should be discussed at your appointment.
If you think you or your child may have an ear infection the best thing to do is see a doctor for treatment.