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Ear infections are very common, especially in children. They are easily cured, but they can be very painful, which is why it is much better to prevent them or to treat them as soon as the first symptoms appear.

Children are particularly prone to this illness, which is also known as otitis media. It is estimated that as much as three out of four children will have an ear infection at least once by the time they turn three. Every parent should be able to recognize the first signs of this infection so it can be treated on time.

How do ear infections occur?

Ear infections and earaches occur for a number of reasons. They can develop following a common cold or sinus infection, if the bacteria pass from the nasal passages to the ear. They can also occur after swimming or diving, even after showering, if the water becomes trapped in the ear. Water, moisture, earwax and bacteria are trapped in the inner ear and they start irritating the Eustachian tube so it swells. The swelling causes additional pressure to the inner ear, which results in pain. Allergies and clogged earwax also count as possible causes of ear infections.

Treating and preventing ear infections

Ear infections are best if prevented before they actually happen. This can be done by taking care of the hygiene and carefully cleaning the ear. Cotton swabs or q-tips can be used to clean the ear, but only around the opening of the ear canal. If the swab is inserted inside the ear, it can push back the earwax. If the earwax becomes impacted, it makes a favorable ground for the bacteria to multiply and cause infections.

The ear should be protected from loud noises, from pollution, harsh substances and dirt. When swimming or diving, it is important to make sure there is no water trapped inside the ear, and if there is, it should be removed, which is best if done by a doctor or a nurse.

If the infection does occur, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible. He or she will probably prescribe antibiotics to kill the bacteria and stop the infection. The antibiotics may come in form of tablets or capsules for oral use, or in form of eardrops.

As for the pain, it can be relieved using over-the-counter analgesics, however, if a child suffers from an ear infection, it is better to consult a pediatrician before giving him or her any medication.

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