Ear Ache

What is it? The  term ear ache encompasses two medical conditions called “acute otitis media” and “acute otitis externa” (swimmer’s ear).

What is otitis media?  Otitis media is inflammation of the middle ear. Acute otitis media is usually of rapid onset and short duration. Acute otitis media typically causes fluid accumulation in the middle ear together with signs or symptoms of ear infection; a bulging eardrum usually accompanied by pain, or a perforated eardrum, often with drainage of purulent material (pus). Fever can be present.

A tube called the eustachian (say: "you-stay-shun") tube connects the middle ear with the back of the nose. Normally this tube lets fluid drain out of the middle ear. If bacteria or viruses infect the lining of your child’s eustachian tube, the tube gets swollen and fills with thick mucus. This keeps fluid in the ear from draining normally. Bacteria can grow in the fluid, increasing pressure behind the eardrum and causing pain.The eustachian tubes can become blocked because of allergies, or a cold or other infection. In other cases, the adenoids (glands near the ear) become enlarged and block the eustachian tubes.

Acute ear infections usually clear up within 1 or 2 weeks. Sometimes, ear infections last longer and become chronic. After an infection, fluid may stay in the middle ear. This may lead to more infections and hearing loss.

What are the symptoms of acute otitis media?  The most common symptoms are pain and fullness in the ear. Fever may be . These symptoms are often associated with signs of upper respiratory infection such as a runny or stuffy nose or a cough.

What is the treatment for ear infections? The treatment for ear infections may include any of the following:

Swimmer’s Ear

What is it? Swimmer's ear (otitis externa) is an inflammation of the ear canal by bacterial or fungal infection, or dermatitis (eczema).

What causes it? Swimmer's ear is usually a result of using objects such as cotton swabs in the ear canal which cause irritation and remove the protective wax. Infection can then develop following prolonged retention of water from swimming or bathing.

What are the symptoms? Usually there is mild pain and/or itching that may progress to severe pain, drainage and/or decrease in hearing. There is a possibility of low grade fevers, enlargement of lymph nodes, and pain and swelling of the ear canal. Usually the middle ear and ear drum are not involved.

What can you do? Take the prescribed medication exactly as instructed. If you are uncertain about any aspect of your antibiotic treatment ask for further explanation.
Take aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen every 4-6 hours for fever and discomfort. Aspirin and ibuprofen have anti- inflammatory properties and may be of more help in relieving pain. These should not be taken together. Choose one.

You must keep your ear dry. No swimming or other activity that allows water or other fluid (except the prescribed medication) in the canal must be allowed. When showering place a cotton ball coated with petroleum jelly at the entrance to the ear canal. Wet your hair last, and dry it first.

To avoid further problems:
- Never put irritants such as full strength alcohol in ears to dry them.
- Use a hair dryer to dry ears.
- Do not use objects like cotton swabs to remove wax.

Consult health care personnel:
- If there is no improvement in 2-3 days of beginning treatment.
- If the pain becomes severe.
- If the fever persists despite treatment.
- Anytime you are unaware of what to do.