Is your child cranky, pulling at his ear, and refusing to eat? Your little one might have an ear infection! Most children end up with ear infections sometime in their life, and luckily, they are pretty easy to treat.
You thought ear infections were just for kids?
Bad news, adults can get ear infections too, and the type of infection you have will dictate which ear infection treatment you will receive from your physician.
Outer Ear Infections
External Otitis occurs most often in children, but anyone can get it.
Wanna hear something gross?
Your ear canal is colonized with a variety of organisms. It’s like your own private zoo in there!
Normally, your ear wax and skin keep the microbes from infecting your tissue and causing problems. But sometimes, those microbes dig into your skin cells and cause an infection.
Also, if water gets trapped in your ear, it can break down the barriers that keep the microbes at bay (Swimmer’s ear). And that’s how you get an outer ear infection.
Outer Ear Infection Treatment
Depending on how painful the outer ear infections is, you may need to see a physician. If it is tolerable, you can probably just use some over the counter products.
You may be prescribed antibiotic drops to place in your ear canal several times a day. There are usually no side effects, but the ear infection medications can sometimes be expensive.
Examples of antibiotic drops are:
- Polymyxin B
Often used in combination with antibiotic drops, steroids help decrease the inflammation causing pain.
Since the medications are topical, they do not get absorbed into your body, and are less likely to cause side effects.
Examples of steroid drops are:
Over the Counter
Acetasol is a combination product that includes acetic acid and steroids. You can find the product at most pharmacies.
Make sure to follow the instructions on the back of the box. A small dose ( about 3 drops) may be required for children.
Middle Ear Infections
Also called Acute Otitis Media, this infection is characterized by pus and fluid building up behind the ear drum. It can be extremely painful and will require a doctor’s visit.
Your physician will likely look into your ear with an otoscope, to evaluate whether or not there is fluid pushing on your eardrum, or if something else is causing the pain.
Luckily, there are middle ear infection treatments available.
Most of the time, antibiotics are prescribed to adults and to children under the age of 2 years old.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends NOT giving antibiotics to children who are older than 2, do not have a high fever, and who do not have severe disease.
What kind of terrible people withhold antibiotics from children?!
Most ear infections are viral, which means that antibiotics won’t work on them.
Instead, the body just has to clear out the virus itself.
Antibiotics for middle ear infections can also have severe side effects like:
- Rash, and
- Can even permanently change your gut flora.
So the AAP has your child’s best interest in mind when they recommend not giving antibiotics for some types of ear infections.
Middle Ear Infection Treatment
For adults or children under 2 years old, your physician may prescribe one of the following antibiotic regimens:
- Amoxicillin: this drug has the best ear infection cure rate. Its one of our most commonly used ear infection medicines. It comes in liquid formula too, so it’s easy to give to kids.
- Amoxicillin with clavulanate: the extra boost with the amoxicillin helps fight a wider variety of bacteria. Its usually only used in severe infections.
- Cefdinir: This can be used if amoxicillin has already been tried, or if it gave you or your child a rash.
- Cefpodoxime: Cefdinir’s less popular drug cousin.
- Ceftriaxone: it can be administered as an IM injection or IV. There is no oral formula available for this ear infection medication.
- Erythromycin: I don’t like this medication as much, since you have to dose it multiple times a day, and it usually gives the child diarrhea. However, if you are allergic to penicillin, your physician may try this drug as an ear infection cure.
- Azithromycin or Bactrim: these two are used last line, because we like to save them for other diseases, like UTIs and pneumonia.
If we use these treatments for ear infections, the bacteria will gain more resistance against them, and we won’t be able to use them at all!
If you are given an antibiotic, remember the most important rule:
Completely finish the entire course, even if you start feeling better.
If you do not finish your complete course of antibiotic, you can actually promote resistant strains of bacteria, making it impossible for us to treat you again or other patients.
This is a whole other can of worms, but I cannot stress the importance of this enough:
If you care for your ears, finish your antibiotics!
Inner Ear Infections
Also called vestibular neuritis and labyrinthitis, inner ear infections manifest as vertigo, nausea, and vomiting caused by dizziness.
Most of the time, the inner ear infection is self limiting. However, if the symptoms are severe, a physician might prescribe high dose oral steroids as a treatment.
The steroids decrease the inflammation and allow the patient’s equilibrium to be restored
Inner Ear Infection Treatment
The medical treatment for inner ear infections is very straight forward, the choice is usually between two types of medication:
- Methylprednisolone, and
- Anti emetics to help with nausea associate with dizziness.
If you are diagnosed with an inner ear infection, it can take months for the symptoms to resolve. So get to your physician right away!
To know more about ear infections and how to recognize one, I suggest you read the article that gives a general overview on ear infections.
Have you or your child ever had an ear infection? How did you have to treat it?