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Jun 30, 2011

Healthy Living listens to signs of ear infections

There are countless activities to keep kids busy during the summer break and with the heat bearing down; many will flock to the sea, rivers and swimming pools. But all that swimming could lead to a condition that is sometimes painful and is common among children; ear infections. The symptoms are easily detected so this week’s Healthy Living tells you what to look for and what are the treatment options.

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

Ear infections are a common enough that most parents know that their child is more susceptible when he/she has a bad cold or flu. But did you know that the summer is another time of year that children are more likely to get ear infections? Ear Nose & Throat Specialist Dr Alvin Flores helps us to understand more about the reason why.

Dr Alvin Flores, Ear Nose & Throat Specialist

Alvin Flores

“The most important thing of ear infection is that first of all we have to know the location of it. We divide into the external, medial and internal infection so we usually have what we call an external otitis which is usually known as a swimmer’s ear.  These usually are caused by contact with contaminated water it could be also because of swimming intensely in pools and in lagoons even in sea and river but it’s more commonly seen in pools and stagnant water like lagoons.”

The main causes that lead to an infection are bacteria and fungus.

Dr Alvin Flores

“These are micro organisms, bacterial micro organism that would cause this.  The patient normally will come complaining about pain, ear pain but also they will be moderate – mild, moderate or severe depending on the evolution of person in days the person is suffering this infection. There are two fungus that normally cause external otitis. These are usually more chronic (fungal infection) and usually is not so painful. The main symptom that typically these patients would be complaining about would be itchiness of the ears.”

It is not only soaking in contaminated water that makes summer a more active time for ear infections but also our weather pattern.

Dr Alvin Flores

“Also humidity, here in Belize in is very humid and during in the summer that they are swimming a lot and when water goes into the ear this promotes humidity and the growing of infections and also one of the other things if the immune system of a patient is low, like a diabetic patient is more prone to getting a fungal infection. Sometimes by using Q-tips, I don’t promote the use of Q-tips or putting anything in our ears sometimes the patient might have itching and they want relief so they start with fooling around with the ears just with  using simple Q-tips can provoke an infection.”

The symptoms of an ear infection are easy to spot. Dr Flores emphasizes the importance of early treatment.

Dr Alvin Flores

“With discomfort or pain those are the main symptoms that you’d have. Some other may have a little secretion and some could have even itching.  And this need to be treated quickly because usually they can lead to complications usually it could be seen in adults if we don’t get treatment we can get complications like meningitis, we can get mastoiditis, infection of the mastoid cavity, we can get even hearing loss.”

Children are usually most prone to ear infections and Dr Flores advises why even the slightest discomfort warrants a check-up.

Dr Alvin Flores

“Not every ear pain means there’s an ear infection, you have to really evaluate the patient completely in the children for example I see a lot of recurrent ear infection and middle ear infection and one of the things that I normally encourage or advice is that they take an x-ray for the adenoid because sometimes the adenoid is where the problem is coming.”

It’ll be challenge for some parents to keep the kids out of the water during our hot summers. Dr Flores offers this as his advice.

Dr Alvin Flores

“If you’ll go swimming and you know you’ll be for a long time then use ear plugs, if water go in, don’t begin fooling around with your ears better you visit your doctor and see what he can help you with. I really tell my patients don’t use anything to fool around with your ears because that’s a simple thing that can cause problem or an infection of the ear.  Take it seriously because the ear is very important organ and we can avoid complication by getting attention quickly the quicker you receive your treatment the better it is for you to avoid complications.”

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