Many times, ear infections are caused by bacteria. Often, it begins after a child has a sore throat, cold, or upper respiratory infection. If the upper respiratory ailment is caused by a virus, like a cold, the fluid from the cold can build up behind the eardrum and lead to an infection. Anyone can develop an ear infection, but they are most common among young children. In fact, 5 out of 6 children get least one ear infection by the time they turn three years old. Children are more prone to ear infections because the eustachian tubes in their ears are small, which makes it difficult for fluid to drain out.
Swimmer's ear is caused by leaving contaminated water in the ear after swimming. Medically known as “otitis externa,” the infection occurs in the outer ear canal and can cause pain and discomfort for swimmers of all ages. Moisture is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, and the longer the water remains in the ear canal, the worse the infection can get. Some 2.4 million healthcare visits are made in the United States every year as a result of swimmer’s ear.
If the ear infection is caused by bacteria, antibiotics are prescribed. If it is caused by a virus, the provider will avoid the antibiotics. Antibiotics do not treat viruses and will only cause the body to become resistant to them if overused. A viral infection is normally treated with warm compresses placed over the ear and the use of over-the-counter pain medications to help control pain and inflammation.
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