Ear Inflammation

Ear inflammation or infection occurs when there is a bacterial or viral infection in the external ear, the middle ear or the internal part of the ear and eardrum. The inflammation is the body’s defense mechanism for trying to fight off any infection.

This condition can affect adults but is one of the most common causes of a baby ear infection and ear problems in young children.  Ear inflammation is more frequent in babies and children because the “Eustachian tube” (the tube that connects the inner or middle ear to the back of the throat) is shorter and straighter which allows infection or inflammation to travel down the tube.


 

Symptoms of Ear Inflammation

  • Blocked or clogged ears.
  • An itchy feeling in the ear.
  • The hearing is a bit fuzzy (tinnitus) or there might be some loss of hearing.
  • A high temperature if the inflammation is due to another illness. This might be seen particularly in babies and small children who will seem generally unwell.
  • Babies may pull their ears as a sign that the ears are sore.
  • An itchiness and redness or sometimes crusting and scabbing of the outer ear which can be painful to the touch.
  • A discharge from the ear which means that there is a likelihood that the eardrum has ruptured.

Causes of Ear Inflammation

  • Following a cold of other infection such a chest or throat infection.
  • A hay fever or other allergy
  • A skin problem such as eczema can could cause inflammation of the outer ear.
  • Bacteria in polluted water in swimming pools or other outside water. It might even be caused by getting water in the ear when taking a shower.
  • Damaging or breaking the skin of your own ear when cleaning them can allow bacteria to take hold and cause an infection.
  • Inflammation of the ear drum can be caused by a bacterial or viral infection.
  • Rupture of the ear drum.
  • In babies or young children tobacco smoke can cause ear infection as well as other ailments.
  • In babies an unclean pacifier or dummy. If the baby needs one of these it should be cleaned and replaced regularly.

Treatment for Inflammation of the Ear

Generally ear inflammation or infection will not require any treatment, especially in adults.  But if some comfort and relief of pain is required you could try mild pain relievers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen for adults and the equivalent pain relievers for children. Mmedication or nose drops containing decongestant could be purchased from the pharmacy. You could also try placing a warm cloth over the sore ear which may provide some level of comfort and perhaps lessen the pain – a well known ear infection remedy.

However if the symptoms are persistent or if it is a child who is suffering or unwell it would be wise to consult with a doctor.  The doctor will advise whether you require a course of medication or whether the condition should be left alone to get better without any treatment.  It will normally be a course of antibiotics prescribed by the doctor if treatment is required.

If the inflammation and infection does not clear up within two or three days you should revisit your doctor particularly if there is any discharge from the ear or a fever is causing a high temperature. In children it might be discovered by the doctor that it is not inflammation and infection causing the problem but is a build up of fluid in the middle ear.  This is a condition called glue ear and could be dealt with by placing a grommet or drainage tube into the eardrum to allow the fluid to drain.

Prevention

What can you do to prevent the onset of ear inflammation?

  • Take action if after a cold of flu you feel problems starting to develop in your ears or you susepect you may have inflammation or infection in your ear.
  • Try a home remedy or over the counter product if you think there is a possibility of ear inflammation.
  • Be aware that bacteria in polluted water might enter your ears and cause an infection or other potentially serious illness.
  • Clean your own ears with care ensuring that you do not damage the skin or ear drum or compact any ear wax.
  • Be extra vigilant when a baby or child has ear inflammation or infection.

Complications

  • Do not use home remedies if there is puss coming out of the ear.
  • You should return to see your doctor if the ear infection has not cleared up after about one week of starting to take antibiotics. In the case of babies return to the doctor if the infection has not cleared up within two or three days
  • See your doctor if your hearing has not returned to normal after the infection has cleared up.
  • See your doctor if the baby seems to have any hearing loss after the infection has cleared up.
  • If the baby is normally healthy the risk of ear inflammation or infection becoming something more serious is very rare indeed.