Is Ear Pain Becoming A Nuisance?

An ear infection is common, especially among children. The shocking statistics show that 5 out of 6 children experience infections before age 3. These kids’ ears don’t drain very well yet, and the immune system is still developing. Infections aren’t limited to kids, as adults can develop recurring infections. Ear infections among adults typically clear within three days, but some can be a lingering nuisance. Both kids and adults can have chronic ear pain and infections. At this point, advanced treatment can help.

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What is an ear infection?

An ear infection is caused by bacteria and viruses that travel through the eustachian tube to the middle ear. The middle ear is the part behind the eardrum. The bacteria or virus can cause the eustachian tube to swell and become blocked. When the tube is blocked, the fluid gets trapped instead of drained, which causes pain.

Common signs and symptoms

Difficulty hearing, ear pain, and fluid draining from the ear are common symptoms of ear infections in adults. On the other hand, children’s symptoms often include constant crying, trouble sleeping, fussiness, loss of balance, and poor appetite. Some begin tugging the ear, with headaches and fevers. Symptoms may occur in one or both ears, called a double ear infection. If the child is younger than 6 months and shows signs of an ear infection, see a doctor immediately. For older children, fevers or severe ear pain are vital indicators to seek medical attention.

Treat it at home

Doctors recommend a few home remedies for mild ear infections to soothe pain and discomfort. First, apply a warm cloth to the affected ear and avoid sleeping on that side. Next, take over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication like ibuprofen and acetaminophen. Pharmacists can also recommend ear drops to soothe inflammation and OTC decongestants to relieve ear congestion.

Can medication help?

See a doctor if symptoms do not improve, as prescription antibiotics can provide some relief. For children with a mild ear infection, wait and observe for 2-3 days to see if the symptoms will improve to avoid antibiotic resistance. If this fails, only then will a doctor prescribe more medication, like ear drops. Ear drops, along with a 7-10-day antibiotic course, can help most cases.

Consider surgery

Surgery is a last resort and will only be recommended if the medicines don’t seem to work. Repeated infections and chronic ear pain over a short period are other signs surgery can help. Using myringotomy, the surgeon will drain the trapped fluid from the ear by creating a tiny hole in the eardrum. The surgeon may also insert a small ear tube into the hole to maintain drainage. This tube will fall out eventually, and the gap will close and heal naturally over time.

Don’t bug out over ear pain

Ear infections are usually mild and may clear up even without treatment. However, if the pain is already distracting, OTC pain medications and decongestants help relieve symptoms. Stronger medication, including antibiotics, can help most patients. However, if the pain persists, surgery is a viable option.