Treating Ear Infections
Oh, no, your child's ear pain is back. The fever, the muffled hearing and "yucky" feeling indicate a middle ear infection. You and your family have played this song before. How can you treat this problem? At West Coast Ear, Nose and Throat in Simi Valley, Ventura County, Camarillo, and Thousand Oaks, CA, the board-certified otolaryngologists come alongside the pediatrician, parent, and child in working through this stubborn and frequent problem. Learn more here about ear infections and what prevention and treatment look like.
The two kinds
You are probably most familiar with otitis media, a bacterial or viral infection of the middle ear. After a cold, the flu or sore throat, fluid builds up behind the ear drum, or tympanic membrane, which vibrates as the ear receives sound.
As fluid accumulates, pain, pressure, loss of balance, and hearing, fever and even ear drum rupture can result. Children and adults fall prey to this condition, but otitis media develops more in children as they have horizontally oriented eustachian tubes which transmit bacteria to the ear. Additionally, exposure to cigarette smoke and allergies are risk factors.
The other kind of ear infection involves the outer ear. Called otitis externa, or swimmer's ear, this painful problem makes the outside of the ear and ear canal sore and red. Often, it stems from water stagnating in the canal, making it a breeding ground for bacteria. Left unchecked, swimmer's ear may worsen into cellulitis, causing skin, cartilage, and bone damage.
Prevention and treatment
To diagnose ear infections, your otolaryngologist will use an otoscope to light the ear canal and inspect it and the ear drum, or tympanic membrane. He or she will perform a tympanogram, a simple test which measures how mobile the ear drum is. The physician also will evaluate symptoms.
Treatment for both otitis externa and otitis media often involves oral antibiotics, over the counter analgesics and soothing the ear with a warm compress. Children often benefit from insertion of ear tubes or adenoid removal, but the ENT doctor will determine treatment based on individual need.
To prevent otitis externa, the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics says that keeping the ears dry helps avoid infection. Earplugs facilitate this as does gently drying the ears with a blow dryer after swimming or other prolonged exposure to moisture.
Regarding otitis media, many children simply stop getting these infections because, as they grow, their eustachian tubes become more vertical and therefore, are healthier. Some children, however, require continued antibiotic therapy to stave off infection while others need a procedure called a myringotomy.
During a myringotomy, the physician creates a small opening into each ear drum. Then, the doctor inserts thin plastic, teflon or metal tubes which allow the accumulated fluid to drain. Tubes stay in place for several months.
The professional staff at West Coast Ear, Nose and Throat encourage patients to seek treatment for troublesome ear infections. To find out more, contact the office team for an appointment. We have four convenient locations in Simi Valley, Ventura County, Camarillo, and Thousand Oaks, CA.