The Facts About Ear Infections

An ear infection is an infection of the middle ear, the air-filled space behind the eardrum. Children are most likely to develop ear infections, but adults can get them too.

Ear infections are commonly associated with colds or the flu because the middle ear is connected to the upper respiratory tract by a tiny channel known as the Eustachian tube. Germs that are growing in the nose or sinus cavities can climb up the Eustachian tube and enter the middle ear to start growing.

The most common symptoms associated with ear infections in children include:

  • Ear pain, especially when lying down
  • Tugging or pulling at an ear
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Crying more than usual
  • Trouble hearing or responding to sounds
  • Loss of balance
  • Fever of 100 F (38 C) or higher
  • Drainage of fluid from the ear

Ear pain, difficulty hearing and drainage of fluid from the ear are the most common symptoms in adults.

While anyone can develop an ear infection, there are multiple factors that can increase your chances of developing one, including:

  • Age – Children between the ages of 6 months and 2 years are more susceptible to ear infections because of the size and shape of their Eustachian tubes and because their immune systems are still developing.
  • Group child care – Children cared for in group settings are more likely to get colds and ear infections than are children who stay home.
  • Bottle feeding – Babies who drink from a bottle, especially while lying down, tend to have more ear infections than do babies who are breast-fed.
  • Seasonal factors. Ear infections are most common during the fall and winter. People with seasonal allergies may have a greater risk of ear infections when pollen counts are high.
  • Poor air quality. Exposure to tobacco smoke or high levels of air pollution can increase the risk of ear infections.

Because ear infections often clear up on their own, treatment may begin with managing pain and monitoring symptoms. When they don’t however, antibiotics can be used to clear the infection. Some people are prone to having multiple ear infections. This can cause hearing problems and other serious complications.

It is important to see your doctor when:

  • The patient is less than six months old
  • Symptoms last more than a day
  • Pain is severe
  • There is a discharge of fluid

Most ear infections don’t cause long-term complications, but if someone develops them repeatedly, they can lead to complications including impaired hearing, speech or development delays and spread of infection to nearby tissue.

The best ways to reduce the risk of developing an ear infection include practicing good hand hygiene and social distancing to avoid contracting the common cold, the flu or other viruses and bacterial infections that can lead to them. Other tips include breast-feeding your baby and avoiding secondhand smoke.

Q&A: Can wearing earbuds increase my risk for an ear infection?

Can wearing earbuds lead to ear infection

Wearing earbuds for hours on end can increase the risk of an ear infection because our ears should not be clogged or obstructed for extended periods of time. Extensive wear of earbuds can prevent wax from exiting the ear canal and create buildups that can lead to infection. Additionally, the surfaces of earbuds are prime environments for dirt and bacteria to accumulate. Inserting earbuds that are unclean can introduce these elements into the ear canal where they can flourish.

To reduce the risk of developing painful ear infections, you should sanitize earbuds on a regular basis by wiping them down with alcohol pads or recommended cleaning solutions.  Store earbuds in a clean case, if they are stored loosely in a bag or drawer they can pick up bacteria and debris. Minimize the amount of time that you wear earbuds.  Most importantly, do not share them with anyone, sharing increases your risk of exposure to bacteria.

The Many Benefits of Garlic

Looking for a wonder drug that can:

ThinkstockPhotos-469904627• Lower your blood pressure and cholesterol? Check
• Boost your immune system? Check
• Control you diabetes? Check
• Improve your digestive and respiratory system? Check

What is this new, breakthrough drug? It’s not a medication at all; in fact you can find it at your local grocery store. It’s garlic!

Garlic is a plant that is used in many cultures for both culinary and medical purposes for hundreds of years. Eaten on its own, or more commonly used as an ingredient in many tasty dishes, garlic contains allicin, which is known to have anti-oxidant, anti-viral, and anti-bacterial properties.

Garlic has been shown to lower blood pressure by relaxing vein and artery walls. This action helps keep platelets from clumping together and improves blood flow, thereby reducing the risk of stroke. Garlic also decreases the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, substances that increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Studies suggest that regularly eating garlic helps lower blood pressure and controls blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

This popular herb may also improve immunity by stimulating some of the body’s natural immune cells. Studies suggest that garlic may help prevent breast, bladder, skin, stomach, and colon cancer. Garlic’s antibacterial properties also make it a wonderful anti-viral and decongestant to prevent and combat colds, coughs, and upper respiratory tract infections. In addition, Garlic is often used to treat many other common maladies such as ear infections, toothaches, and treatment for warts and athlete’s foot.

Garlic can be digested either cooked or in raw form (but only in small amounts). If you do not like the taste of garlic there are also powdered or caplet forms. Your doctor can recommend which form of garlic is best for you.

For most people, consuming garlic does not cause any serious side effects if taken in moderation, but it can cause heartburn or stomach irritation if taken in excess. Due to its blood thinning properties, individuals taking anti-coagulant medications should speak with their doctor before increasing their daily garlic intake.

Ear Infections and Your Child

Ear infections are among the most common health conditions in young children and babies. However, some children are too young to tell you that they have ear pain. How can you tell if your child has an ear infection?

Look for the following symptoms, which are all signs of ear infections:


  • ear drainage
  • fever
  • trouble hearing
  • tugging on the ear, fussiness, or excessive crying
  • difficulty sleeping
  • difficulty eating or chewing

While ear infections are not always preventable, you can help minimize your child’s risk of developing them by keeping him or her away from second hand smoke and people with colds whenever possible. Frequent hand washing also helps. If your child has frequent ear infections it is advisable to see an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist for a complete evaluation.

Originating from germs found in the nose or throat, ear infections are easily treated. Over-the-counter pain medications can be given as needed for temporary relief.  Ear infections may resolve by themselves, however depending on the severity, antibiotics may be needed. It is best to speak to your physician to determine the proper treatment.

If you suspect your child has an ear infection, please call 718-206-7001 to schedule an appointment with a pediatrician.

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