Every fall and winter season is plagued with colds and other ailments, and that includes ear infections. Ear infections are the most common reason children visit the doctor, but did you know that they can also affect adults? Adults suffer from ear infections at a surprisingly high rate and account for roughly 20% of all ear infections.
The good news is that many infections are avoidable, and there are numerous strategies to reduce your chance of contracting one. This article will explain how ear infections occur, the various types of infections and their symptoms, and what you can do to avoid them.
Ear infections can come in a variety of forms.
Acute Otitis Media
The most prevalent sort of ear infection is this one. The infection spreads to the middle ear, causing swelling in certain areas. An earache often develops as the fluid builds up and presses on the middle ear.
Otitis Media with Effusion (OME)
OME can occur when an ear infection has cleared up, but some fluid cannot exit from the mid-ear. Although there may be no symptoms, a doctor can often detect the presence of fluid.
Chronic Otitis Media
Chronic otitis media is an ear infection that lasts fr an extended period or returns several times over months or years. Although fluid may drip from the ear, it is usually painless.
Chronic Otitis Media with Effusion (COME)
Despite the absence of a current infection, fluid collects in the inner ear regularly or persists in the ear for an extended period with this condition. COME could make it more challenging to treat ear infections in the future.
Ear infections are associated with a variety of symptoms, including:
Hearing loss, soreness, and discomfort are all symptoms that should be investigated and treated as soon as possible.
Keep it dry in there: After you wash or swim, wipe the outside of your ears with a dry, clean cloth or paper towel to keep them clean and dry. Cleaning the inside of your ears daily is also a good idea. Avoid cotton swabs as they can lead to debris being blocked inside the ear.
Manage your earwax: Ear wax (also known as cerumen) is essential for preventing ear infections, but an excess of earwax may cause issues. Take steps to clean your ears regularly of excessive earwax.
Take medication to prevent allergies: If you have allergies that cause any form of head congestion, you risk acquiring an infection in one or both ears. It's crucial to remember that the more severe your allergy is, the more likely you will get an infection. If left untreated, ear infections can result in pain, discharge, poor hearing, and even irreversible hearing loss.
Quit smoking: Smoking cessation is critical in reducing adult ear infections. Tobacco use harms the lungs and respiratory system. It causes inflammation, destroys fragile tissues, and impacts the immune system's ability to fight respiratory infections. A person's body is better able to fight infection and prevent an adult ear infection from occurring in the first place if they stop smoking.
Take care when swimming: After you've showered and dried yourself off, thoroughly dry each ear canal. To start, tilt your head to one side until all of the water drains from your ear; then repeat on the other side. If required, carefully dry the ear canal with a hairdryer on the lowest setting. Swimmers' ear can also be avoided by wearing earplugs that keep water out of the ears while swimming or bathing.
Get your flu vaccine: In addition to cold prevention, you also need to take precautions to avoid the flu. When you lower your chances of getting influenza, you lower your chances of viruses getting into your ears while you're unwell.
Make every effort to avoid catching a cold: An ear infection can result from a common cold, the flu, or allergy symptoms that cause congestion and swelling of the nasal passages, throat, and eustachian tubes. Swelling and obstruction of the eustachian tubes are common side effects of anything that makes the nose stuffy. Swelling caused by colds or allergies can prevent the eustachian tubes from opening, resulting in pressure fluctuations and fluid buildup in the middle ear. This pressure and fluid will cause pain, and the fluid can sometimes lead to infection. Observe the usual healthy habits like regular exercise, a balanced diet, and a good amount of sleep.
Ear infections aren't fun when you're a kid, and they're no better when you're an adult. Adult ear infections, while not as frequent as children's ear infections, share many of the same symptoms, with the potential for more catastrophic effects if left untreated for too long. Basic ear hygiene and a healthy lifestyle are essential strategies to avoid infections, but they aren't foolproof. Paying attention to your body and not ignoring new aches and pains is always a good idea. If you believe you or a loved one may have an ear infection, make an appointment with your general or ENT (Ear, Nose & Throat) physician.