After Hours GP Spotlight on Ear Infections
Posted: Mar 29, 2019
The ear is made up of the outer ear, canal, and eardrum. The outer ear is the part we can see, and the canal leads to the eardrum. The middle ear is separated by the eardrum and tiny sound amplifying bones, and this is where the sounds are translated to an electrical impulse that is sent to the brain. All three parts of the ear can become infected by viruses, bacteria, and fungus. Children have an increased likelihood of a middle ear infection, with research suggesting that four out of five children will have at least one middle ear infection during childhood. So, here we’ll explore ear infections in greater detail with this After Hours GP spotlight.
The Symptoms of Ear Infections
The symptoms of an ear infection will depend on the cause of the infection. This can include:
- Mild deafness, or muffled sounds
- Earache or pain
- Ringing or buzzing noises in the ear
- Ear discharge
- Itchiness around the outer ear
- Blisters within the ear canal or around the outer ear
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of balance.
The Contributing Risk Factors of Ear Infections
The ears are connected to the top of the nose with the Eustachian tube, which equalises air pressure within the ear and funnels secretions from the middle ear towards the throat. The walls of the tube lay flat to limit the migration of bacteria from the throat and nose to the ear. However, as we swallow, small muscles flex and can open up the tube. When the Eustachian tube becomes blocked, bacteria and secretions can build up inside the middle ear, allowing an ear infection to develop.
The contributing risk factors for an ear infection include:
- Upper respiratory tract infections
- Sudden air pressure changes
- Smaller than average or blocked Eustachian tube
- Swimming in polluted water
- Not drying the outer ear properly after water activities such as swimming or bathing
- Excessively cleaning the ears, which can scratch the ear’s delicate tissues
Diagnosing an Ear Infection
To diagnose an ear infection correctly, your After Hours GP will perform a physical examination and laboratory analysis of any discharge or pus. There are several common types of ear infections including Glue ear, Vestibular neuronitis, Otitis media, and Acute mastoiditis. If you or your child is suffering from pain or earache along with any of the symptoms listed above, such as fever or feeling sick, you’ll need to consult a doctor for an official diagnosis and receive the appropriate treatment. The precise treatment plan will vary according to the underlying cause of the infection. A viral infection will not respond to antibiotics. Your doctor is likely to recommend some form of pain relief. You can also reduce the pain by using a low heat from a heating pad, but this needs to be performed with caution for children.
If you suspect someone in your family has an ear infection and you need an after hours GP, Perth residents should call us. The After Hours GP team would be happy to address any of your queries or concerns.
If you would like further guidance to improve your health and wellbeing from an after hours GP, Perth residents should call us.