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By Mayo Clinic Health System staff
Q: What causes ear infections?
A: Middle ear infections, which are the most common ear infections, are caused by a bacterium or virus that infects fluid that builds up in the middle ear. Ear infections are often a direct result of a common cold, allergy or other upper respiratory illness.
Q: Why do children have more ear infections than adults?
A: Eustachian tubes are narrow channels inside your ears that allow drainage – preventing fluid in the middle ear from building up. Children have Eustachian tubes that are shorter, more narrow and straighter than those of adults. These tubes can clog with fluid easier and cause infections.
Q: How do I know if my child has an ear infection?
A: Some of the common signs of an ear infection in children are:
- Ear pain, especially when lying down
- Tugging or pulling on the ear
- Trouble sleeping
- Hearing difficulty
- Headache or fever
- Fluid drainage from the ear
Q: How do you treat an ear infection?
A: The best treatment for an ear infection depends on many factors, including the age of the child and the severity of the symptoms. Most ear infections clear up on their own within a week without medical treatment such as antibiotics. However, there are ways to lessen the pain such as using a warm compress, pain medications and eardrops. Children with chronic ear infection issues may need the surgical placement of ear tubes to drain the fluid and prevent future infections.
Q: What is swimmer’s ear?
A: Swimmer’s ear is an infection of the outer ear canal. It’s most often caused by moisture that collects in the ear and aids in bacteria growth. It’s more common in people who spend a lot of time in the water – hence the name, “swimmer’s ear.” Medicated eardrops are the most common treatment of swimmer’s ear.
Read more:Part 2: How to prevent earaches and ear infections