Pharmacist Graham Hibbins, from Strachan’s Chemist, looks at otitis and its symptoms.
OVER THE past few months, a large number of patients have been complaining of earache.
There are two main kinds of ear infection: Otitis Externa (outer ear) and Otitis Media (middle ear).
The tube between the outer ear and the ear drum is known as the external ear canal. Infection here is often known as “swimmers ear” as repeated exposure to water or other irritants, such as shampoo, can make the ear canal more vulnerable to inflammation.
Often this causes itching. Scratching inside the ear with fingers, cotton buds or other objects can cause damage, leading to infection and pain. Hearing aids and music ear plugs can also cause damage.
Usually only one ear is infected and with some degree of hearing loss, often associated with ear wax, but the pain can be severe and there maybe discharge.
Often the infection can clear up by itself with pain killers but if it persists over a few days, your GP may prescribe ear drops containing antibiotics or steroids. The doctor should check the ear to make sure there are no underlying problems such as a boil, fungal infection or a perforated ear drum.
To prevent Otitis Externa, I would suggest keeping ears dry as best you can; use a shower cap when bathing and use swimming earplugs if possible. Make sure ears are dried, try using a hair dryer with a gentle setting, if hearing aids or plugs are worn make sure they are clean and try to avoid prolonged use.
Otitis Media is an infection in the small space behind the middle ear. This area is normally filled with air but often during a cold, particularly with children, it becomes filled with mucus.
Usually children have a high temperature, feel sick and are generally lethargic. One of the most common causes of a hot, irritable, crying baby is an ear infection.
Usually this infection clears up on its own with the help of pain killers so doctors are reluctant to prescribe antibiotics. Antibiotics tend to be prescribed to children under the age of two, if the infection doesn’t improve after three days, or complications develop.
It’s not unusual for children to get ear infections, however it is less likely to occur in smoke free homes.
Next month: hopefully with the weather getting warmer, and as pollen increases, I am going to discuss hay fever.
Visit Strachan’s Chemist at 7 New Street, Uppermill, Saddleworth, OL3 6AU or call: 01457 820228.