Bacterial ear infection occurs when a large number of bacteria starts growing within the ear canal. Read this article to find out about the causes, identifiable symptoms and treatment options for bacterial infection in ear.
Bacterial infection in ear is quite a common form of ear infection and it mostly affects the middle and inner part of the ear. The other two forms are fungal and viral ear infections. Unlike bacterial infections of upper respiratory tract, an ear infection caused by bacteria is not contagious in nature. Some people may get ear infection occasionally while others tend to suffer from it quite frequently. Recurrent ear infections are more common in children as compared to adults.
There are some specific types of bacteria which are mostly found to be responsible for causing ear infection. They are: Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, Moraxella catarrhalis, Streptococcus pyogenes and Staphylococcus aureus. Actually, these bacteria live in the inner part of the ear without causing any harm. When they grow in numbers for some reasons, it leads to ear infection.
In normal condition, the middle portion of the ear is occupied by air. There is a narrow tube called Eustachian tube that runs from this part of the ear to the back of the nose. Any fluid build up in the middle ear is drained out through this tube into the nose and from there into the throat. This way Eustachian tube maintains air pressure inside the ear. When you have nasal congestion because of upper respiratory infection, sinusitis or allergies, upper part of the respiratory tract gets inflamed and the resultant mucus causes blockage in the Eustachian tube.
Now, the air cannot reach in the middle portion of the ear anymore and a vacuum is created there. The mucus from the nose and throat is then pulled into this area. The fluid trapped here cannot be drained out properly as the Eustachian tube is already in blocked condition. The accumulated fluid in the middle section of the ear then becomes a perfect breeding ground for bacteria that already exist in the region.
A bacterial ear infection is more commonly found in small children mainly because their Eustachian tube is narrow and short and it gets blocked very easily. In some children, this tube is almost horizontal. So, it cannot carry out drainage function properly and the child suffers from ear infection again and again. Swimmers get this kind of ear infection quite often due to water entering the ear while swimming. Small babies may have an infected ear if milk enters their ear during feeding.
The symptoms of this ear infection are usually observed soon after a throat infection or any other forms of upper respiratory infection. Some of the signs and symptoms are as follows:
- Constant pain and discomfort inside the ear. The intensity of the pain often varies from mild to intense that depends on the severity of the infection.
- Mild to moderate fever.
- Fluid discharge from ear.
- Temporary loss of hearing ability.
- Dizziness accompanied by headache.
- Fatigue and general weakness is found in small children.
You have to visit an ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat) specialist for the treatment of a bacterial ear infection. The infection-causing bacteria is destroyed with the help of antibiotic medicines. Sometimes, they prescribe antibiotic ear drops for topical use only. In other cases, where the infection is quite serious, they may prescribe both oral antibiotics as well as ear drops. Pain relieving medicines are used in those cases where the patient is experiencing too much of pain. When there is too much of swelling in the inner part of the ear, doctors often prescribe steroid ear drops to bring down the swelling. In case, there is excessive fluid build up inside the ears that refuse to get cleared up with the help of medicines, doctors opt for draining out of the fluid from the ear by means of a small surgery.
If it is not a serious ear infection, it may not require any medicinal treatment. It can be treated with the help of home remedies. Three such effective home remedies are discussed below:
This is an excellent home remedy for babies and small children. Take a bowl of hot water, dip a clean washcloth into it, wring it out and then place it over the painful ear. It should be repeated several times in a day in order to provide a soothing relief from the annoying ear pain.
Tea Tree Oil
Dilute some tea tree oil with equal amount of water. Take this mixture in a dropper and put it into the painful ear. Wait for 5 minutes and then tilt your head so that the liquid inside the ear can be drained out. Tea tree oil destroys bacteria really well. It can also dry up the fluid accumulated within the ear.
We are all aware of the fact that garlic juice possesses amazing antibiotic qualities. For this reason, it can be used to kill the bacteria growing inside the ear. Crush fresh cloves of garlic to extract some juice. Pour a few drops of the juice into the ear with the help of a dropper. It should be applied 2 – 3 times a day for faster healing of the infection.
A mild bacterial ear infection often gets resolved within a couple of days. A more severe form of infection, when treated on time, can be cured within 7 days. However, if proper care is not given to this kind of infection, it can continue to bother you for several months. Therefore, make sure that you do not neglect the infection and destroy the ever-increasing population of bacteria with medicines and home remedies as soon as possible and prevent any unnecessary complications.