What’s the Difference Between Middle Ear Infections and Swimmer’s Ear?
posted by Orem Family Medicine | August 12, 2019
When your child has an earache, they can experience significant pain that prevents them from sleeping or eating. If left untreated, ear infections can pose a risk of serious complications.
Children are prone to ear problems, including both swimmer’s ear and middle ear infections. Understanding the difference between the two and recognizing the symptoms of each can help parents determine when to call their family doctor for evaluation and treatment.
Swimmer’s ear, known as otitis externa, is a type of infection that affects the outer portion of the ear canal. This condition occurs most frequently in children and young adults who spend a lot of time in the water.
When water becomes trapped in the ear canal, this area becomes more vulnerable to infection. Kids can also develop otitis externa due to an overuse of cotton swabs or even a minor injury to the delicate skin of the canal, according to HealthyChildren.org.
What Are Middle Ear Infections?
The most common type of ear infection in children is called otitis media. Whereas swimmer’s ear affects the outer portion of the ear canal, this condition affects the middle ear, just behind the eardrum.
Otitis media infections occur when the eustachian tube becomes swollen or blocked. Eustachian tubes facilitate drainage from the inner ear. When fluid cannot drain, it builds up behind the eardrum and infection develops. Although this type of infection can affect adults, children’s tubes are more prone to blockage.
Potential causes of otitis media infections include:
Symptoms of otitis media include the following:
When Should You Contact Your Family Doctor for an Earache?
In most cases, an earache indicates the presence of infection and infection warrants a trip to your family doctor.
Although significant complications are rare, infections related to swimmer’s ear can progress to other parts of the ear and potentially spread to the bones of the skull. Middle ear infections, especially if the problem recurs or persists, can lead to hearing loss and other complications.
“Ear Infection – Acute.” MedlinePlus.
“Ear – Swimmer’s.” HealthyChildren.org.
“Otitis Externa (Swimmer’s Ear).” FamilyDoctor.org.
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.