The ear is made up of three sections: the outer ear, middle ear and inner ear. The ear canal (outer ear) and the area behind the ear drum (middle ear) are where infections are found.
Swimmer's Ear (Otitis Externa)
Those horribly painful outer ear infections, commonly known as swimmer's ear, can occur year round. They are not only associated with swimming but any water exposure. Of course not every one who gets water in their ear will get an infection. But if you haven't had one, it is something to definitively avoid. Symptoms of acute Swimmer's Ear include really severe pain and tenderness when the ear is touched, fever, decreased hearing due to swelling in the ear canal, and even pus that drains out of the ear. Treatment is best done with topical medications. Generally we can avoid oral antibiotics of this problem.
There are more chronic external ear infections, generally caused by chronic water exposure or an underlying skin condition (like eczema or psoriasis). Fungus colonizes the canal and begins to grow, sort of like athlete's foot. This debris needs to be completely removed and some form of topical medication needs to be applied to clear up the chronic infection.
Middle Ear Infection (Otitis Media)
The Middle Ear infections are what we are talking about most of the time when we refer to kids having "an ear infection." These can be bacterial or viral. Typically by the time we see a kid (or an adult) with ear infections it has become clear that antibiotic therapy is most likely not going to make it all go away. In these chronic cases,fluid may be stuck in the middle ear because it can't drain out normally. That fluid is a great place for bacteria to live. To break the cycle of fluid and infection we will, when it is the right thing to do, recomment putting in "tubes." Many kids have them and they really make a difference. There are less infections. If they do get infected we can treat them with antibiotic drops instead of oral medications. That way we avoid making the bacteria resistent to treatment. Also, when the ear is full of fluid hearing is affected. Kids who don't hear well have learning and language problems. Outting tubes in does require a trip to the operating room for kids, but it is easy and well tolerated. Adults can typically have a tube placed in the office without muc trouble.
If you suspect you or your child may have an ear infection, please contact our office and schedule an appointment with one of our providers.