Ear infections are common in all age groups. There are different types of ear infections which can be categorised depending on what part of the ear is affected (middle ear, ear canal or outer ear) or depending on what is the cause of ear infection (bacterial, fungal or viral).
Middle ear infections are common in childhood while infections of the ear canal is common in both adults and children.
The most obvious symptom of ear infection is ear ache or pain. It is also common to notice discharge from infected ear. If there is itching in the ear, there is possibility that the infection could be due to yeast (fungus).
Children may pull their ear or put their finger in their ear if they are in pain. They may also have fever and appear to be irritated by the discomfort.
Sometimes there are no particular symptoms and if there is middle ear effusion which is present for long term, this can cause problem with hearing and delay in speech development.
Ear infections are caused by micro-organisms such as viruses, bacteria and fungi. Your doctor may need to take a swab to confirm the cause of the infection if initial treatments fail to resolve the symptoms.
Swimmers are at slightly higer risk of getting ear infections because the water in the ear can encourage growth of micro-organisms.
Ear infections could be self limiting but if they're not, they need to be treated promptly. Please see a doctor to confirm the diagnosis. The treatment includes keeping the ears dry, that means to prevent any water from entering the ears which could cause exacerbate the infection. Please do not use any objects such as ear buds to clean the ear canal as it can cause further trauma to the ear canal or the ear drum.
Doctors can prescribe medications depending on the cause and investigation results if they do a swab. Sometimes, patients need to be referred to ear specialist for further treatment if infection is not improving with treatment. Rarely, the middle ear infection affects the skull bones called mastoid air cells. This needs very urgent review and your doctor would refer you to a specialist for immediate treatment.