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How to Unclog an Ear From an Ear Infection

Video transcription

Hi, I'm Dr. David Hill and today we're going to be talking about how to unclog an ear when you have a middle ear infection. Now, doctors call a middle ear infection an acute otitis media. This distinguishes it from an outer ear infection or swimmer's ear, that's an infection involving the ear canal, the part that you can see here, stick a Q-Tip in, although you really shouldn't stick a Q-Tip in it. When the middle ear gets infected, it's usually as a result of a cold or occasionally allergies or sinusitis. This type of inflammation can block the tubes that carry fluids from the middle ear into the nose, these are called the Eustachian tubes. When a middle ear infection occurs, usually we treat it with antibiotics. I say usually because when the infection is simple and the child is over age two, antibiotics don't seem to help that much and many physicians now will just observe the infection to see if it gets worse or not. But, in cases where children are under age two or the infection is complicated, we usually do use antibiotics to fight it. However, you also hope that you might be able to help unclog those tubes and get more fluid from the middle ear into the nose where it belongs. Unfortunately, a lot of the measures that we use to do that don't seem to have made much difference. We used to use decongestants, for example, things like Sudafed. We now know that in children, Sudafed is really not helpful and may actually be harmful, especially in children age six or less, so we no longer recommend that. In children with allergies, allergy treatment and, specifically nasal steroids, may help reduce some of the inflammation inside the nose and allow fluid to drain out of the ear. And, of course, if the child has a cold, time should fix it; most colds are going to get better within seven to ten days, and then the ears will naturally drain themselves. And that's what we count on in children who are age two or over. So, remember, if the blockage is due to allergies, there are medicines to fix that. If the blockage is due to a bacterial sinusitis, we usually try antibiotics and also for some ear infections. And finally, if the blockage is due to a cold, the cold really ought to get better on its own and there's not a lot other than maybe some saline drops in the nose that make much difference. Discussing getting fluid out of the middle ear when you have an acute otitis media, I'm Dr. David Hill.

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