The Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment of Ear Infections in Children

Ear Infections are the most common conditions in infants and young children that necessitate a visit to the doctor. Much to the concern and the frustration of their parents, it is an inescapable fact that almost none will manage to complete their early years without experiencing several such attacks. This increased susceptibility is a direct result of their size and diminishes with growth. The internal architecture of the offending organs is far smaller and quite differently shaped from those of adults who, as a consequence, are far less prone to be affected.

When these conditions occur in babies, the only hint that something is not right will often be a change in his or her mood. This will often manifest simply as an increased tendency to cry and perhaps a parallel tendency to pull at or press on the affected region repeatedly which may or may not also show some visible evidence of inflammation. A raised temperature and reduced appetite are also clues.  While the short-term effects may not represent any immediate danger, if these conditions are not treated, there is a distinct risk that more severe complications could arise.

The organ comprises of three distinctly separate compartments, each of which contributes its own particular set of functions and each of which may also be subject to invasion by a variety of causative microorganisms. These will most commonly be various species of bacteria and viruses as well as fungi and yeasts on occasions.

Ear infections in older children may show some rather more overt signs such as a yellow or whitish discharge from the external auditory meatus. This will consist of pus cells that can be an indication that a small hole may have developed in the tympanic membrane or eardrum. The perforation, however, will normally heal quite rapidly once an appropriate antibiotic has been administered. As stated earlier, the organ has three chambers and depending where the organisms gain their foothold, the required mode for effective administration will vary. External conditions are treated topically with drops and those of the middle region will normally require an oral antibiotic also. Treating conditions of the inner chamber will frequently require the antibiotic to be given systemically by injection.

Conditions that are prone to arise in either of the middle or inner chambers, known as Otitis Media and Otitis Interna respectively, are often accompanied by other symptoms. Dizziness or vertigo is a common indication that there is involvement of the labyrinth. This is a complex structure consisting of a trio of fluid-filled canals, arranged in different planes that, in combination with the eyes, serve the brain to determine the body’s spatial orientation and thus to maintain its balance. Varying degrees of temporary deafness too, can be a side-effect in many cases and, where other symptoms may be less marked, it is often the decision to investigate such an unexplained hearing loss that will, coincidentally, lead to the discovery of this type of underlying condition as its root cause.

In this context, the 19 audiology centres operating in South Africa and Namibia under the management of The Ear Institute feature frequently among the primary diagnostic units whose services lead to the early detection and subsequent treatment of ear infections both in children and adults.

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