A reader of last week’s piece sent me a feedback via the e-mail. She wanted to know if eardrops are safe for the ear of her young daughter.
The answer to the question is simply yes, but with conditions attached. Eardrops are safe as long as her daughter’s eardrum is intact and not ruptured. However, there are several things one should think about before using eardrops.
First, why is her daughter having ear pain? Does she think she has an ear infection? There are different types of ear infections. An infection in the middle ear is an infection behind the eardrum. This is the classic type of ear infection that produces pain and, often, fever.
The other type of ear infection is an infection in the canal of the ear. Occasionally, children stick something in their ear like a piece of paper, or a bead and it remains there, which can cause pain.
Some may have small boil in the ear; while ear wax can build up to cause discomfort. There are also other less common causes of ear pain related to skin issues or infections that are not actually in the ear.
The second thing to think about is the type of eardrop you’re using, as there are many different brands. Some eardrops are actual antibiotics and treat infections in the ear canal. Antibiotic eardrops require a prescription from the doctor.
There are eardrops that just help relieve ear pain topically. Such eardrops may not be helpful since pain medications that are taken by mouth, like ibuprofen or paraetamol, work just as well if not better.
Although ear wax is usually not a problem (unless a doctor is having difficulty seeing the eardrum), there are also eardrops that help dissolve ear wax. In general, do not try to clean out your child’s ear wax with a cotton swab!
The ear canal is small and you could accidentally rupture your child’s eardrum. There are several different “ear wax dissolving drops” that you can try instead.
Overall, I would recommend that even before you try the eardrops, take your daughter to her doctor. Usually, a doctor can quickly look inside the ear to determine the cause of pain.
In addition some procedures such as ear syringing and ear washing may be dangerous. Always ask or confirm from your healthcare provider that your eardrum is intact before the ear is washed or syringed or before you apply the eardrop.
This material may directly affect the inner ear and the nerve that sends hearing impulse to the brain – the result being infections and hearing impairment.
Last week, I defined chronic suppurative otitis media (chronic ear infection) as a common childhood infectious disease worldwide and explained that it is a common cause of hearing impairment.
I also warned that it is characterised by hearing loss, painless drainage of fluids from the middle ear for at least two weeks, and perforation of eardrum. The painless ear discharge can be recurrent or persistent and may last for years.
Since younger children may not be able to explain their feelings, the parents will need to be observant to identify some signs that will help the doctor to diagnose the condition. Such signs are listed below:
Younger children may pull at their ears, while older children may complain of earache or headache. Again, the child may have difficulty sleeping or wake often during the night; he or she may have fever, or the outside of the ear may appear red and sensitive to touch.
Discharge can range from purulent to fetid to cheese-like, and can fill the ear canal. A large central perforation of the eardrum may be seen in most people affected. This is visualised with the aid of an instrument used in examination of the ear called otoscope
The diagnosis is based upon consistent clinical findings (e.g., hearing loss and chronic ear discharge). Ear swab for culture is also done. CT scan may be requested in some cases to rule out other abnormalities.
A torn (perforated) eardrum will usually heal by itself within six or eight weeks. The eardrum is a skin-like structure and, like skin that is cut, it will usually heal.
In some cases, a doctor may prescribe antibiotic medicines if there is an infection or risk of infection developing in the middle ear while the eardrum is healing.
A small procedure is an option to treat a perforated drum that does not heal by itself. Also, a surgical operation called tympanoplasty to repair the eardrum is done to improve hearing.
Also, swimmers may prefer to have a perforation repaired, as getting water in the middle ear can increase the risk of having ear infection.
Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water, gently clean ears with a damp face cloth and then dry the ears. Warm the drops to near body temperature by holding the container in the palm of the hand for a few minutes.
If the drops are a cloudy suspension, shake the bottle well for 10 seconds, check the dropper tip to make sure that it is not chipped or cracked, draw the medication into the dropper, or hold the dropper-top bottle with the dropper tip down.
Tilt the affected ear up or lie on the side. Pull the ear backward and upward (or if applying on a child younger than three years of age, pull backward and downward) to open the ear canal. Apply the correct number of drops in the ear.
Gently press on the small skin flap over the ear to help the drops to run into the ear canal. Keep the ear tilted up for a few minutes or insert a soft cotton plug in the ear. Replace and tighten the cap or dropper right away, and wash the hands to remove any medication.
In conclusion, have your child vaccinated with the pneumococcal vaccine. It reduces the incidence of otitis media (middle ear infections) and should be given to all babies from infancy.
Kindly talk to an Ear, Nose, Throat surgeon for more on chronic ear infections and visit my blogspot: www.doctoradesanya.blogspot.com for more information on other health issues.