What Causes Middle Ear Infections?
A middle ear infection occurs behind the eardrum when bacteria from a cold, flu or allergy causes the area to become inflamed. These ailments cause congestion which swells the nasal passages, throat and ear tubes (eustachian tubes) and allows the infection to grow and persist. This type of infection affects children the most and usually happen during the winter and spring months due to environmental factors. The ear infection tends to clear up once the virus or fever passes. Most people end up treating the pain with ibuprofen until the infection goes away. When determining what causes middle ear infection as an adult, be aware of your symptoms and talk to your doctor who may prescribe antibiotics.
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A middle ear infection as an adult can be a sign of a serious health issue, but what causes middle ear infection in the first place? When your middle ear gets blocked due to cold or flu, and starts to fill with puss, this can cause painful pressure on the eardrum. Also known as otitis media, fluid will start draining from the affected ear as well as make hearing more difficult. As a result, what causes middle ear infection can be bacterial in nature and needs immediate treatment to avoid complications. There are many treatment options for middle ear infections as well as preventative measures you can take to reduce pain and quicken recovery time.
Middle Ear Infection Symptoms
The most common middle ear infection symptoms are persistent ear pain and muffled hearing. If the eardrum ruptures, there will likely be a yellow fluid discharge. These symptoms are not what causes middle ear infections but are often accompanied with a sore throat and congestion that often comes with a fever or flu. Children and infants may start rubbing or pulling on their ears and experience discomfort, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, and loss of balance. When dealing with what causes middle ear infections, the main health concern is that the infection might spread to the surrounding area. If left untreated, the inner ear or the bone surrounding the ear may become infected and lead to more severe hearing loss.
Seek medical attention if symptoms last for over 24 hours. If symptoms last more than three days, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics to fight the infection. If you have a cold or the flu, there are steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of a middle ear infection from developing.
- Keep your hands clean
- Do not smoke or encounter secondhand smoke
- For children, make sure their vaccines are up to date
- Sit up when eating or breastfeeding a child
- Avoid contact with other sick people
- If you have allergies, stay away from things that may trigger them
People with weakened immune systems are more likely to get ear infections. Those with conditions such as diabetes, eczema or psoriasis are also more susceptible to what causes middle ear infection.
Middle Ear Infection Treatment
Once you have determined what causes middle ear infection, treatment will depend on the severity and duration of the infection. Generally, most ear infections will subside on their own as the person recovers from the flu or cold afflicting them. Taking common decongestants, nasal sprays, or antihistamines as directed will speed up the process by helping clear mucus. The feeling of having your ears plugged and the trouble hearing will go away once the fluid is gone after a week or two. For ear pain management, it's recommended to take an over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen (Advil).
For children, your doctor may prescribe ear drops for the pain and recommend simple bed rest and a warm compress until the cold or fever subsides. To help clear up the middle ear, you can try auto-insufflation by pinching your nose and slowly exhaling to force air through your ear tubes. If the symptoms persist over several days, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic such as amoxicillin to help fight off the infection. Antibiotics are recommended for children under 6 months old or for those more susceptible to complications. If your doctor prescribes antibiotics, it is still recommended to wait and see if symptoms improve before administering the medication.
Middle Ear Infection Antibiotics Guidelines
Over-prescribing antibiotics can lead to drug-resistant bacteria according to Mayoclinic.org. Therefore, it is wise to consider all other options before filling a prescription. Once symptoms have improved, be sure to continue taking your antibiotics as directed by your doctor. Failing to do so may lead to recurring ear infections that are resistant to antibiotic medication.
Those with a history of reoccurring ear infections should consult with an ear specialist. Chronic middle ear infections are difficult to treat and requires the suction of fluid from the ear before administering antibiotic drops.
To learn more about what causes middle ear infections, visit out blog to discover more helpful health advice and treatment suggestions. At CanadaPharmacy.com your health and well-being are our priority.
- Mayo Clinic - Patient Care & Health Information - Diseases & Conditions - Ear infection (middle ear)
IMPORTANT NOTE: The above information is intended to increase awareness of health information and does not suggest treatment or diagnosis. This information is not a substitute for individual medical attention and should not be construed to indicate that use of the drug is safe, appropriate, or effective for you. See your health care professional for medical advice and treatment.