TV Host: It’s that time, time to answer some common medical questions. Joining us is News Channel s’s medical specialist, Dr. David Soria. Although you do moonlight here quite a lot, he does have a day job, we promise, it’s the Chief of Emergency Medicine at Wellington Regional Medical Center. Thank you for being with us.
Dr. Soria: You’re welcome. Good to see you again.
TV Host: Today we’re talking about ear aches, a lot of parents have to deal with this. Does it happen more often, though, in children than it does adults?
Dr. Soria: Yeah. An ear ache can be caused by infection, either in the outer ear or the middle ear and it is absolutely more common in children than adults. Clearly. Three out of four, matter of fact, will have their first by the time they hit their third birthday, and it is clearly the number one reason why parents bring their children to the doctor when they’re kids.
So, why is this? The eustachian tube, which is the tube that drains the middle ear, is much smaller in children, and so if it gets inflamed or clogged, it’s not going to drain it, it can participate in the development of bacterial build up, and the infection, also your immune system, as a child, is not as developed. Clearly, they can’t fight infection like we can, and of course, the adenoids, which are behind the throat, also can harbor bacteria and sometimes seed the ear. Those are reasons why.
But what can you do about it? Well, typically it is some of the common sense things like preventing exposure to infection in the first place. So, parents wash your hands if you’re exposed, of you come in from outside. Remember, you touch a door knob, you can get exposed. You can bring those bacteria into the child, so do that. Also, try to minimize exposure to other kids that are sick. Kids are sick, many times, hold off on the playmate.
Cigarette smoke, avoid exposure. Clearly, studies have shown that kids that are exposed to cigarette smoke either primary or secondary, are increased for risk of infection. So, things like that. Also, if they do have a cold and they’re congested, do your best to try to minimize that congestion so that the eustachian tube can drain the ear. Whether it be suctioning, saline drops, or if they’re a little older, you can use decongestants. Typically, that will help.
TV Host: What if they already have it. I know my mom used to do the cotton ball with the mineral oil, is that just an old wife’s tale or does it work?
Dr. Soria: It’s even beyond old wife’s. It doesn’t do a thing. Because it’s an infection in the middle part of the ear, and so all that’s doing is getting in front of the ear drum, it’s not doing a thing to open up or drain the middle aspect of the ear.
TV Host: You did mention the middle ear, we do have a question about middle ear infection. Is that something different than what we were just speaking about, a middle ear infection?
Dr. Soria: You know, they’re essentially the same because an ear infection, typically, is referring to a middle ear, although it can be an outer ear as well, or a swimmer’s ear. The middle ear is that little space comprised of air, a pocket of air, and it holds the three tiniest bones in the body that are responsible for our hearing. The eustachian tube drains that part of the ear, which is why when we yawn or swallow, you can pop your ears. When that gets secluded, it can cause build up of fluid, and that build up of fluid can cause bacterial infection, and thus become a middle ear infection.
How do you diagnosis it? There’s no tests that are needed. All we have to do is look into the middle ear with an otoscope. We see a bulging ear drum, we know it’s an ear infection. Treatment? Typically, it goes away on its own. But many times we typically treat with antibiotics, decongestants, and something for pain. If it continues to recur, make sure you see your pediatrician because sometimes they recommend ear tubes to prevent it from happening again.
TV Host: Okay, all right, thank you Dr. Soria.
Dr. Soria: You’re welcome.
TV Host: If you have a question for Dr. Soria, you can send it in by going to our website, WPTV.com, and clicking on the health link. Scroll down on the right hand side and you will see a form to write in your question. Thank you again for being here.
Dr. Soria: You’re welcome.
TV Host: I have to go call my mom and tell her about that whole mineral oil cotton ball thing. We’ll see you next week and we’ll see you after the break.