Ear infections are extremely common among young children but also affect adults. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimate that close to 34 out 100 children each year require a provider visit for an ear infection. Additionally, that number roughly doubles for children 2 years old or younger.
For adults, ear infections can come at unexpected times and cause significant discomfort and other problems if untreated. Thankfully, the NIH has compiled a solid overview on ear infections, clinically known as otitis media, and how you can effectively manage infections for you and your children.
Here is how you can effectively identify ear infections, understand when and why to get treatment, and what your best options are for addressing ear infections:
Multiple symptoms can help identify an ear infection for you or your children
Ear pain or difficulty hearing don’t necessarily mean that your ear is infected. Both conditions may stem from another factor such as impacted or excess earwax, entry of a liquid, or another external cause.
For adults, an ear infection is usually the cause of your ear pain when you experience difficulty hearing, drainage from the ear, and ear pain all at once.
Determining an ear infection can also be especially difficult if you have an infant or toddler that can’t effectively communicate their pain. The key signs to look out for if your young child has an ear infection includes:
- Tugging at ears
- Crying more than usual
- Fluid draining from the ear
- Trouble sleeping
- Balance difficulties
- Hearing problems
Children and adults that experience these symptoms should go to a nearby medical provider, or an urgent care center near them, to make sure that they can get treatment. Ear infections tend to go away on their own but going to a medical provider can help speed up treatment!
Ear infection prevention is similar to infectious disease prevention
Most ear infections are easily preventable for both young children and adults with a few basic steps. The most effective techniques for preventing a possible ear infection includes:
Hygiene and routine disinfection of household - As with the flu and other infectious diseases, making sure that you and your family maintains solid hygiene habits reduces the chance of getting an ear infection. Wash your hands frequently, stay away from sick individuals, and disinfect surfaces to lower infection risks.
Get updated vaccinations - Most of the time a virus of an infectious disease can lead to an ear infection. To limit the change of a virus, and subsequently an ear infection, make sure you first get any updated vaccinations for you or your child. Vaccines are a safe way to build immunity for diseases like the flu, mumps, and measles.
Avoid secondhand smoke - Especially for young children, make sure you limit contact with secondhand smoke from tobacco products such as cigarettes. Additionally, it may also help to avoid secondhand smoke from e-cigarettes as well. The smoke from these products can lead to an ear infection or similar irritation.
Avoid allergy triggers - Allergy triggers such as pollens, foods, dust, and similar irritants can also lead to an ear infection. Make sure that you use hypoallergenic bedding, reduce dust and clutter, and frequently change household air filters to reduce allergens.
Keep your ears clean but don’t use Q-Tips - Keeping your ears clean from excess wax build up can help reduce ear infections and help determine if ear pain is caused by a current infection. However, make sure you avoid Q-Tips when cleaning your ear since you could accidentally impact wax. Use cotton swabs and Q-Tips only on the outside of the ear canal.
Treatment for ear infections is usually limited between waiting and some medications
For the most part, an ear infection requires the patient to wait a few weeks before the pain and fluid pass. If your doctor believes that bacteria has caused an infection, then they may prescribe medicated ear drops. However, most ear infections are caused by viruses which can’t be treated with medication.
The most common forms of ear infection treatment include:
- Ear drainage for fluid build up to reduce pain and improve hearing
- Pain relievers and similar medications
- Antibiotics for bacteria-based infections
Most providers can help alleviate the symptoms of an ear infection but can’t directly remove the cause of the infection. Follow symptom relief treatment by your provider’s guidelines and wait for the infection to gradually dissipate.
Ear infections are not ideal to deal with, but thankfully AFC Urgent Care Denver is ready to provide treatment whenever you need it.
Residents in the Denver Speer area can now access our nearby urgent care center if they or their children experience an ear infection. Simply find us at 777 E Speer Blvd and walk in without the need for an appointment.
Don’t let ear infections continue to bother you! Check in online at anyone one of our four locations.