Posts tagged ear infections
Swimmer’s ear is something of a misnomer since you don’t have to be splashing around the pool or swimming to get the kind of ear infection attributed to swimmer’s ear. This ear infection is of a specific type which begins as a mild, barely noticeable itching or redness, which gradually escalates into an inflamed condition that can become very tender to the touch, and can eventually even disrupt your hearing.
You can contract swimmer’s ear infection in any number of ways, including swimming in some body of water, but also by taking a bath or shower, or even by cleaning your ears out with a cotton swab.
Causes of Swimmer’s Ear
The formal medical name for swimmer’s ear infection is otitis externa, and it occurs when water gets trapped in your ear. When that water is allowed to stay there, bacteria and sometimes fungi can grow in the ear and multiply, which then leads to an infection near the opening of the ear.
There are other causes of swimmer’s ear as well, which are not brought about by any exposure to water. If a cut or scrape occurs just inside the ear canal, that can also trigger the formation of the bacteria necessary to create an infection.
Aggressive cleaning with cotton swabs is another relatively common cause of swimmer’s ear since the swab can scratch the skin inside the ear, and bacteria can begin growing and multiplying as a result. In fact, people with excessive amounts of earwax are prone to developing swimmer’s ear, as are people bothered by eczema, which is a chronic skin condition.
Symptoms of Swimmer’s Ear
As mentioned, the first indication of swimmer’s ear is usually a mild form of itching, often accompanied by redness and swelling around the ear. When the infection begins to progress, the area becomes more inflamed and more painful. Many people who have contracted swimmers ear report that it’s extremely painful, far beyond what you might expect from such a seemingly simple medical condition.
Other symptoms can develop if swimmer’s ear is left untreated, some of which can be quite serious. Fluid build-up in the ear, swollen lymph nodes, a swollen or closed up ear, and a high fever are all symptoms that can result from an untreated ear infection. This damage is not permanent and will subside once the infection is cleared up with medication.
Treatment for Swimmer’s Ear
Someone who has contracted swimmer’s ear infection should take a pain reliever like Ibuprofen if the patient cannot see a doctor immediately. In some milder cases, the pain and discomfort will subside on its own, but if that doesn’t happen within just a few days, it’s always advisable to make an appointment with a physician. If you can’t get an appointment to see your doctor for treatment, you should try to get into an urgent care facility and have the infected ear examined.
To confirm a diagnosis of swimmer’s ear, a physician will take a fluid sample from the area around the ear, and the first treatment option will usually be antibiotic eardrops. If these don’t clear up the problem in a short timeframe, an oral antibiotic is likely to be the next option.
There are times however, when this line of treatment is ineffective and something else has to be tried. If ear antibiotics don’t work, it’s usually because there has been so much debris or fluid built up in the ear canal, that antibiotic eardrops cannot penetrate the obstruction. If this is the case, your doctor may attempt to clear the debris out of the ear canal by using a vacuum apparatus.
Once the buildup of debris has been dissipated, antibiotic eardrops will again probably be effective. One reason why oral antibiotics could possibly be ineffective as a means of treatment, is if the infection wasn’t really caused by bacteria in the first place, but was triggered by a fungus.
Preventing Swimmer’s Ear Infections
You don’t have to avoid swimming, bathing, or showering in order to avoid swimmer’s ear infections. One of the most effective ways of ensuring that water doesn’t become trapped in the inner ear is to wear earplugs when swimming. After showers or baths, you can lean your body toward the side which feels like it has water trapped, and shake your head somewhat vigorously. This will usually dislodge any inner ear water, and clear out the ear canals. It’s also advisable to limit your cotton swab cleaning of the ears as much as possible, so you don’t scratch the interior skin and trigger an infection.
“My Ear Hurts” is a statement that parents often dread. Immediately, you think ear infection. However, it is important that you don’t jump to conclusions. Before you start panicking, here are a few facts about ear infections that you should know to not only help your child but know when to seek help from a doctor or otolaryngologist.
Most illnesses are caused by either bacterium of viruses. The eustachian tubes is a part of the body that drains fluids from the middle ear. When it is swollen due to infection, it doesn’t function properly. Fluid is instead pulled into the middle ear, causing bacteria to grow.
Common Symptoms of an Ear Infection
Symptoms are your number one indicator of an ear infection. So, it’s crucial that you know what to look for. If you are worried, then check to see if your child has any of the following:
- The common cold.
- Irritation during the day or night.
- Hearing loss.
- Trouble laying down straight.
- Blood or pus in the ear.
- Ear pain.
When to Call Your Doctor
These symptoms are serious. Blood or pus coming out of the ear probably means a ruptured ear drum. The ear drums swell and can burst, especially if your child messes with it. Now, this can heal, but a professional can tell you what to do so it heals properly.
If the pain is too great or your child cannot hear, then visit your doctor or an otolaryngologist. You shouldn’t wait for their temperature to go down. Ear infection can also be the cause of a fever and stiff neck. Home treatment only works so much, and very little if your child’s condition is severe.
Hopefully, this helps you find the signs of an ear infection. Next week, find out how to prevent an ear infection from occurring.
A Childhood Vaccine that Actually Protects Everyone
New studies have revealed that children and infants immunized with the pneumococcal vaccine prevented the spread of pneumonia to adults. The practice of infant pneumonia vaccine against certain bacteria has eliminated 1 out of 10 cases of the elderly being hospitalized with pneumonia.
Pneumonia—an infection of the lungs—is one of the leading causes of hospitalization in the United States. Even adults who do not get vaccinated benefit from infants who are. The logic follows: If the baby does not get sick, family members cannot get sick, and thus they cannot pass it onto others. Some medical experts even believe the indirect protection that the infant pneumonia vaccine confers to adults—also known as herd immunity—is more effective than the pneumococcal vaccine that is designed for adults.
Researchers retrospectively looked at rate of pneumonia vaccinations over the last decade and found four out of 10 cases of children aged two or under being hospitalized for pneumonia were virtually eliminated since the infant pneumonia vaccine mandate. What’s more, the number of adults hospitalized for pneumonia, especially those 65 years of age and older, reduced dramatically.
The bacteria that cause pneumonia can live incognito in a person and the infected person is asymptomatic. Children are often carriers and can pass the bacteria on to older family members, especially to grandparents. The current pneumonia vaccine for children protects against more than 10 types of bacteria that could cause the infection.
The infant pneumonia vaccine initiative was very successful, lowering the cases of ear aches and other types of infections as well. Nevertheless, some experts wonder if by cleaning out this type of bacteria the vaccine is just making room for another pathogen to settle in. More study in this field is required to verify if that can happen. For now, pneumonia hospitalizations are on the decline.
Decrease in Number of Ear Infections
For many children, ear infections are a part of life. They are the number-one reason children are taken to the doctor’s office. Childhood surgeries are also mostly due to ear infections and their related problems. This is not that surprising when you consider that nearly 80% of toddlers will have had at least one ear infection by age 3. That’s just for one occurrence—nearly 40% will have as many as three bouts with infection by that age.
However, in recent years, a particular vaccine seems to have helped reduce the number of incidents related to ear infections. A nearly decade-long study helped sort out the facts related to this fortunate decline.
An introduction to the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine came to the United States in the year 2000. What researchers noted while tracking this was a decline in ear infections and related illnesses, a trend particularly noticeable in 2004. The PCV13 vaccine was then introduced in 2010, and since then, toddlers aged 2 and younger saw a drastic improvement in middle ear infections. Researchers were able to determine this fact by analyzing the number of ear infection-associated medical visits.
This is significant not just for the children who have to suffer through the infection, but for parents and healthcare workers as well. Less missed days from school and work also reduced the expense of medical treatment. The number of prescribed antibiotics in children was also reduced, which is a good turn as well. While some vaccines have been around for a few years, there are newer ones, and researchers are keen on continuing to monitor the response to such preventative methods and their outcomes.
Chronic Ear Infections Caused by Undetected Bacteria
For many of us, ear infections are a part of childhood not fondly remembered. Unfortunately, the number of children that suffer from chronic ear infections is substantial—and the reason for this, as researchers have discovered, is that some bacteria go unnoticed. One kind in particular can lead not only to ear infections, but also to other respiratory issues that may become chronic.
The strain, known as NTHI, can be found around the mucus membranes of almost 50% of children. However, under the right conditions, the bacteria can begin to thrive and grow. It has been known to cause a number of infections in the ear, sinuses and lungs, therefore making chronic conditions likely to occur. The problem with NTHI is that is has become difficult to treat: While preferred treatments for ear infections, for example, may clear up the problem, it may not completely rid the middle ear of infection. This allows for another flare-up, which may then lead to another ear infection. Medicine-resistant strains such as this have been the focus of some recent studies.
While looking into the causes of some of these chronic respiratory infections, scientists were able to observe how the bacteria reacted to the body’s own defense mechanism, our immune system. It was noted that certain processes of the immune system actually help NTHI become stronger and maintain its hold on its host. By using the immune system against itself, the strain is now not only able to feed, but also goes through a sort of transformation. By structurally changing or mutating, the strain, in effect, camouflages itself. When this happens, it is no longer targeted by the immune system; it is now overlooked.
Resistant strains are nothing new to the medical community, but impetus is being put on finding ways to prevent this from happening. More study is needed to determine the best way to treat infections caused by bacteria such as NTHI, and researchers have some avenues they feel may lead to effective treatment.