Ear infections are a common problem with both children and adults. They are often painful and may require the use of antibiotics. There are three different types of ear infections; acute otitis media, otitis media with infusion and otitis externa. Understanding the types of ear infections and the proper way to treat them is vital in preventing permanent hearing loss.
Acute otitis media is extremely painful. Symptoms include pain, redness of the eardrum, pus in the ear and fever. It is usually caused by bacteria and must be treated with antibiotics. Sometimes viral respiratory infections will also cause acute otitis media. Infants and toddlers with acute otitis media may pull at the affected ear or be extremely irritable. Infants under the age of 3 months should be seen immediately by a physician to rule out this type of ear infection. It is important to treat this type of ear infection immediately as rupture of the eardrum can lead to permanent hearing loss.
Otitis media with infusion is a buildup of fluid in the middle ear. This type of infection is not acute and does not produce pain or require the use of antibiotics. It is common with allergies, viral respiratory infections, and exposure to irritants such as cigarette smoke. This type of infection will usually go away on its own. If the fluid becomes infected it becomes acute otitis media and will need to be treated with antibiotics.
Otitis externa is also known as swimmers ear. This type of infection affects the outer ear and / or the ear canal. It is very common and usually caused by germ found in contaminated water. Swimmers ear is caused when contaminated water gets trapped in the ear. Symptoms include redness to the outer ear, pain when the ear is touched or the head moved. Sometimes there will be drain from the ear. Antibiotic eardrops are the most common treatment for this type of infection. Preventing otitis externa is the best course of action. Using alcohol-based eardrops, available at most drug stores, dry the ear after swimming and are a simple way to avoid otitis externa.
Seeing your healthcare provider is the best way to determine what type of ear infection is present. If you or your child has been diagnosed with an ear infection, see you physician immediately if symptoms do not improve. Ear infections that are left untreated can lead to permanent hearing loss. The sooner an infection is treated the better the output will be.