Choosing the best treatment for otitis depends on the location of the condition and if a bacterial infection is present. Otitis refers to inflammation of part of the ear and can develop in the middle ear, inner ear, or outer ear. Typically, otitis media is most common and this condition primarily affects children, though it can affect people of all ages. Symptoms of this condition include pain, redness, and muffled hearing. In addition, ear drainage, bleeding from the ear, and sensitivity to sound can occur as well.
Usually, treatment for otitis involves oral antibiotics and ear drop analgesics. When a bacterial infection is present, the Eustachian tube in the ear swells with fluid, causing pain and pressure. After the infection subsides, so do the fluid and pressure. In the meantime, physicians frequently prescribe ear drops that contain a pain-relieving agent and anti-inflammatory medication that help ease earache until the antibiotics have "kicked in."
Treatment for otitis should be employed as soon as symptoms appear because delaying treatment can result in permanent hearing deficits. Children are more likely to experience otitis because of the size and location of their Eustachian tubes, and therefore, they are more prone to infection. Otitis externa is also a condition usually brought on by infection, but symptoms of this disease are generally milder. These symptoms can include redness, itching, and irritation, but deep earache and hearing loss are usually not experienced.
Treatment for otitis externa, in addition to antibiotics, generally includes antibiotic ointment or corticosteroid ointment that can help relieve itching and bring down inflammation. In addition, children who experience otitis externa risk a secondary infection if they keep scratching the area, as pathogens and bacteria can easily invade broken skin. Parents need to discourage their children from scratching. For children who cannot stop scratching, soft, anti-scratching hand covers or mittens can be worn.
Sometimes, treatment for otitis does not require antibiotic therapy. This is especially true when the condition arises from a non-bacterial cause. In these instances, a patient can use warm or cool compresses. These patients may also set a blow dryer on low and let the warm air flow into the ear. The heat of the blow dryer is soothing and can even help dry out moist, irritated ear tissue.
If excessive ear draining, bleeding, or severe pain are present, the doctor should be immediately called. Similarly, if high fever, lethargy, or vomiting occurs, a medical evaluation needs to be conducted. Usually, routine treatment for otitis is highly effective in treating symptoms and infection. When symptoms become severe, however, and the condition is not improving, hospitalization for intravenous antibiotics or intravenous fluid replacement might be required. This is especially true if the patient is a child.