Swimmer’s ear (otitis externa) is an inflammation and infection of the ear canal. Swimming, bathing, allergies, or even cleaning your ear with a cotton-tipped swab can lead to discomfort, bacterial growth, and infection. The ear is made up of an intricate system of tiny bones, organs, and membranes that produce the signals our brain interprets as sound. An ear infection, also known as otitis media , produces pus, fluid, fullness, pain, and inflammation within the ear. An ear infection may also cause fever, hearing loss, and dizziness. In children , the eustachian tube is shorter and less slanted than in adults and is thus more susceptible to bacterial and viral infection. Since it often occurs when excess water enters the ear canal, a common name for this inflammation is “swimmer’s ear.” If you have had swimmer’s ear in the past, you have a higher risk of having it again. Exostoses may not cause symptoms, or they may lead to ear infections and hearing loss, especially if they are big enough to block the ear canal.
Causes of Ear Infection
The common Causes of Ear Infection :
The cause is a germ infecting the outer ear canal. Most often this is caused by bacteria (which can be treated with antibiotics), but sometimes other causes, such as fungus infection, are to blame.
The infection can happen to anyone. Sometimes a cause can be traced, such as swimming in infected sea water (many surfers will attest to this). Most times it is not possible to be sure why it started.
Excessive sweating from physical activity.
Use of earplugs.
Some people seem to have one episode after another. It may be that some of these people have a habit of fiddling with or picking at their ears, and introduce the infection themselves, inadvertently.
Otitis media is most likely to happen in children, because their eustachian tubes are narrower to start off with. Sometimes the glandular tissue at the lower end of the eustachian tubes (the adenoids) seems rather more enlarged than in other children, making blockage of the tubes even more likely. However it can happen in anybody.
Symptoms of Ear Infection
Some Symptoms of Ear Infection :
Nausea , vomiting .
Have trouble sleeping .
Develop a fever.
Fail to respond to sounds .
Develop fluid that drains from the ears.
Ear noise or buzzing.
Tug or pull at their ears .
Treatment of Ear Infection
Most times your family doctor will treat the infection with either ear drops (which usually contain an antibiotic or antiseptic, along with some steroid), or a course of antibiotics. On occasion you may be given both drops and antibiotics.
If the pain is bad you may need to take pain killers (analgesics) such as paracetamol, or anti inflammatory drugs in addition. Usually the infection settles quite quickly.
Sometimes the ear canal needs more attention. This may involve seeing a specialist, and perhaps having the ear cleaned out, or a dressing inserted temporarily.
The treatment, however, can start immediately, as the most important part is to reduce the pain . For this, paracetamol either as a liquid, a tablet, or a soluble tablet is usually the best. Ibuprofen, a NSAID is another alternative. You should not use aspirin in a child under the age of 16, but it can be very helpful for the older age groups.
In many countries, the standard treatment for otitis media has been a course of antibiotics. There is currently some debate as to whether this should indeed be the treatment. There are points for and against their use.