Otitis is the medical term for an ear infection, acute or chronic, that can be very painful. Find out what the symptoms are and how to treat them.
Otitis is a bacterial or viral infection that develops in the ear, an organ that, because it is poorly protected, is very susceptible to the entry of viruses, bacteria and pollution.
In most situations, ear infections resolve on their own or are easily treated. If the pain is very severe, warm compresses may be applied to the ear or medication may be prescribed to relieve fever and pain. If the infection is of bacterial origin, the doctor may also prescribe a antibiotic🇧🇷 Know more.
Risk factors for otitis
There are some circumstances that can favor the onset and development of otitis.
- Age: otitis is more common in children between 6 months and 2 years of age, due to the small size of the ear, the shape of their Eustachian tubes and the immature immune system.
- Clinical conditions: have adenoid vegetations or allergic rhinitis🇧🇷
- Environment: frequency of spaces more favorable to the transmission of respiratory infections.
- Food: otitis is more common in babies who are fed lying down.
- seasonality: cold weather, but also seasonal allergies and the bathing season, can favor the appearance of otitis.
- Exposure to toxic environments: stay in spaces with pollution and smoke increase the risk of otitis.
Different locations of otitis
This type of otitis is usually caused by some bacteria or fungus and by excessive accumulation of cerumen or moisture. This generates an eczema infection of the external auditory canal and injuries caused by friction from scratching or contact with contaminated water, for example.
Wax is a form of protection for our ear canal and constant contact with water removes that protection, which is why this otitis is quite common among swimmers and is known as surfer’s otitis.
The main symptoms of external otitis are:
acute otitis media
Otitis media consists of inflammation/infection and the accumulation of fluid in the middle ear cavity and eardrum and usually results from a bacterial infection or a viral respiratory problem, such as the flu, a constipation or simple cases of nasal obstruction and rhinorrhea.
In the case of children, these otitis are even more common, since their Eustachian tube is different and favors blockage in case of respiratory infections. Approximately 75% of children have at least one otitis before age 3
This problem is not contagious and its main symptoms are:
- swelling of the mucous membranes of the nose;
- swelling of the throat;
- accumulation of fluid in the inner ear;
- pain that may radiate to the teeth;
- high fever;
- ear pressure;
- hearing loss;
- loss of appetite;
Otitis media with effusion/serosa
This type of otitis can appear in adults or children and is usually associated with deafness and chronic nasal obstruction. Its origin may be an increase in adenoid volume, allergic rhinitis or colds. In addition to the feeling of a blocked ear and accumulation of fluid, this type of otitis can cause:
- episodic pain of varying intensity.
- hearing loss;
- nasal voice.
It usually occurs in the middle ear and consists of obstruction of the Eustachian tube caused by an injury to the ear.
Symptoms depend on which part of the eardrum is perforated and the perforation, which may be a central perforation (hole in the center) or marginal perforation (hole at the edges). If otitis is recurrent, it may be recommended to have a hearing test.
It usually also affects the middle ear and, although it can manifest itself at any age, it is more common in children between three months and three years old. It is often a complication of a cold or other respiratory problem, as bacteria and viruses reach the ears.
The main symptoms can be listed:
- persistent pain;
- hearing difficulty;
- vomiting and diarrhea;
- High fever;
- swollen eardrum;
- fluid in the ear;
Diagnosis and treatment
The diagnosis is made based on symptoms, observation of the ear (ear canal and eardrum) with an otoscope and, in some cases, complementary tests such as impedance and audiometry.
For the treatment of otitis, there are different approaches, which must be defined by the doctor. If in some cases taking an analgesic, antipyretic, anti-inflammatory and/or ear drops and nasal unblocking may be sufficient, in others it may be necessary to resort to antibiotics. In rare cases, surgery may be required to place “vent tubes” or remove adenoid vegetations.
As a form of prevention, try to avoid colds and other viral and bacterial respiratory problems and ensure proper nasal hygiene. In addition, and especially in the case of children, you should:
- vaccinate children;
- regularly sanitize children’s hands;
- avoid exposure to smoke;
- feeding babies sitting down;
- not sharing personal objects;
- respect respiratory etiquette;
- do not use cotton or cotton buds to clean the ears;
- wear hearing protectors to prevent ear contact with water;
- frequently wash your nose with saline solution or sea water;
- avoid contact with sick children.