Ear Infection Treatment in Santa Barbara, CA
What is an Ear Infection?
An ear infection is an infection that occurs in the space behind the eardrum, usually when bacteria or virus trap fluid causing pain and swelling.
Dr. Charish Barry is a board-certified pediatrician with extensive experience diagnosing and treating children throughout the Santa Barbara area for ear infections. Call (805) 845-1221 to request an appointment at our pediatric clinic in Santa Barbara today!
What are the Types of Ear Infections?
There are three main types of ear infections.
- Middle ear infection (acute otitis media) is an infection in the middle ear.
- Fluid in ear (otitis media with effusion) occurs when fluid builds up in the middle ear without being infected and without causing fever, ear pain, or pus build-up in the middle ear.
- Infection in outer ear canal (swimmer’s ear) is a bacterial infection typically caused by water that stayed in the outer ear canal for a long period of time, providing a moist environment for bacteria to grow.
What Causes an Ear Infection?
Many times, an ear infection begins after a cold or other respiratory infection.
An ear infection may be caused by:
- Bacteria – like Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae (nontypeable)
- Viruses – like those that cause colds or flu
The bacteria or virus travel into the middle ear through a tube that connects to the back of the throat called the eustachian tube.
The bacteria or virus can also cause the eustachian tube to swell. This swelling can cause the tube to become blocked, which keeps normally produced fluids to build up in the middle ear instead of being able to be drained away.
Ear infections occur most commonly in young children because they have short and narrow eustachian tubes. About 80 percent of children develop an acute ear infection at some point. Some 25 percent of all children will have repeated ear infections.
Who is at Risk for Ear Infections?
Ear infection is most common in children. Adults can get ear infections too, but they don’t happen nearly as often as they do in children.
Risk factors for ear infections include:
- Age – ear infections occur most often in children between age three months and three years old
- Allergies – inflammation and mucus caused by allergic reactions can block the eustachian tube
- Cold or Sinus Infections – most start with a cold and may result in pressure build up in the middle ear
- Adenoid issues – adenoids are glands on the roof of your mouth behind your nose that help protect your body from infections but sometimes the infection can spread from these glands to your ears
- Chronic illnesses – those with lifelong illnesses may struggle with ear infections, especially those with immune deficiency and chronic respiratory diseases
- Habits – such as bottle feeding, pacifier use, frequent laying on back, changes in climate or altitude, frequent exposure to other children, swimming and water exposure, all may result in an ear infection
What are the Symptoms of an Ear Infection?
Common symptoms of middle ear infection in children can include:
- Ear pain
- Fussiness or irritability
- Rubbing or tugging at an ear
- Difficulty sleeping
If you are unsure if you or your child has an ear infection, it is important to seek medical attention for an evaluation. Untreated ear infections could result in other complications such as hearing issues or speech delays. We would be happy to talk to you and resolve your concerns about a potential ear infection..
Are Ear Infections Treatable?
Yes, ear infections are treatable. Some ear infections, such as middle ear infections, need antibiotic treatment. In children younger than age two, an antibiotic is usually needed for ear infections.
Many ear infections can get better without antibiotics. In many cases, ear infections clear up on their own.
Ear infections are one of the most common reasons why young children visit healthcare providers.
How to Treat Ear Infections?
We can help determine what type of ear infection your child has by asking about symptoms and looking inside the ear.
A middle ear infection will usually show pus or red swelling.
First, watchful waiting. This may suggest watching and waiting to see if your immune system can fight off the infection. If symptoms don’t resolve in two or three days of rest, extra fluids, and pain relievers, you may need a prescription for an antibiotic. Antibiotics are often not needed for middle ear infections because the body’s immune system can fight off the infection on its own.
Second, prescribing an antibiotic. If the ear infection is more severe, you may need an antibiotic such as amoxicillin to help fight off the infection. This is a solution if bacteria are causing the problem. It is important to take the medicine for as many days as the pediatrician instructs — even if the ear stops hurting. If you don’t take all the medicine, the infection could come back and the ear will start hurting again.
What about Recurring Ear Infections?
If ear infections are a repeated concern, there are other treatment options available like ear tubes.
Ear tubes are very small metal or plastic tubes an ent specialist inserts in your child’s ears to help reduce the number of ear infections by allowing fluid or pus to drain.
This is usually recommended if there are three or more ear infections in a six-month period or four or more in one year.
Schedule Your Child’s Ear Infection Treatment Today
Dr. Charish Barry is highly trained in the diagnosis and treatment of ear infections in children. If your child has symptoms of an ear infection or get reoccurant ear infections, please call (805) 845-1221 to schedule a consultation at our pediatric clinic in Santa Barbara.