How Serious Are Ear Infections?

January 23, 2024

How Serious Are Ear Infections?

As a parent, the frequency of ear infections in children is likely something you’re familiar with. Remarkably, the National Institute of Health reports that by the age of three, 83% of children will have experienced at least one ear infection. But just how severe can these infections be? Our team at AFC Urgent Care Sevierville is here to provide some insight.

What Causes an Ear Infection?

Children often suffer from a specific type of ear infection that affects the middle ear. This occurs when the Eustachian tube, which is responsible for allowing fresh air into the middle ear, fails to function properly. Under normal circumstances, this tube helps to maintain a clear and dry environment in the middle ear. However, if the Eustachian tube becomes obstructed, the middle ear’s ventilation is compromised. This leads to a moist, warm, and stagnant condition that is ideal for the proliferation of bacteria.

Common Symptoms of Ear Infections

  • Ear pain, especially when lying down
  • Tugging or pulling at an ear
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Crying more than usual
  • Fussiness
  • Trouble hearing or responding to sounds
  • Loss of balance
  • Fever of 100 F or higher
  • Drainage of fluid from the ear
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite

Are Ear Infections Dangerous?

Occasional ear infections are usually not dangerous and clear up on their own within a few days. However, chronic ear infections, which occur frequently or persist for long periods, can lead to complications if left untreated.

Possible Health Complications Caused By Chronic Ear Infections

  • Mild hearing loss. Fluid buildup in the middle ear due to chronic infections can temporarily muffled hearing. This usually resolves as the infection clears.
  • Tympanosclerosis. This condition involves scarring of the middle ear bones, which can cause permanent hearing loss.
  • Cholesteatoma. This is a cyst-like growth in the middle ear that can erode surrounding bones and damage hearing.
  • Mastoiditis. This is an infection of the mastoid bone behind the ear, which can be painful and require surgery.
  • Meningitis. In rare cases, untreated ear infections can spread to the meninges, the protective membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord, causing meningitis, a life-threatening condition.

While most chronic ear infections can be treated with antibiotics and other medications, some children may require tympanostomy tubes, small tubes inserted into the eardrum to drain fluid and prevent infections.

If your child is suffering from an ear infection, don’t wait to get the treatment that they need! Visit AFC Urgent Care Sevierville today.

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