When a child is howling in pain because of an ear ache – it can be really frightening for his or her parents. If you are a parent – this is what you should know about earache.
Ears are extremely important
The ears are extremely important organs of the body – but they are usually not noticed by us when they are functioning normally. However, when they are diseased for some reason – they cause severe almost unbearable pain. And compel us to sit up and take notice.
The parts of the ear
The ear has 3 parts.
What we see outside and what we see if we peep into the ear – is the external ear.
Where the external ear ends – the middle ear starts. The middle ear is separated from the external ear by a curtain like partition – which we call the ear drum. This is what the doctor looks at – when you go to him and he puts the instrument called auroscope into your ear. Beyond that curtain are three little bones that move whenever there is a sound. And it is their movement that helps us hear the sounds that we hear.
The third part of the ear is the inner ear. It is usually not possible to see the inner ear except during surgery – when the whole ear is opened up in the operation theatre. This part of the ear contains 3 canals that help us to balance our bodies during our day-to-day activities.
Why is it important to take note of and treat ear ache immediately?
- We hear because of our ears. Neglecting an ear disease can lead to deafness.
- We are able to walk move and do various other things because of our ears. Not being able to balance ourselves would mean not being able to move around at all. And getting injured if we tried to move
- Our ears are located very close to the brain. In fact the innermost part of our ears are actually embedded in the brain. Infections of the ear – can then easily spread to the brain.
- Several important nerves run through the ear and when they are disturbed – they can cause extreme discomfort and loss of concentration as a result.
What can cause ear ache in a child?
The cause of ear ache can be
- In the external ear
- In the middle ear
- Outside the ear for e.g – Toothache
The diseases of the external ear are – boils, wax, fungal infections, injury, or an object that has been pushed into the ear.
The diseases of the middle ear are –
Pain in the middle ear can be due to an infection – called otitis media. It can also be due to a block of the canal that connects the ear to the nose and the throat – called the Eustachian canal.
What you need to know about ear diseases
- Wax – Wax is sticky substance that is produced in the external ear. Unlike what is commonly believed – wax is not bad for the ear. Wax in fact has a role in protecting the ear. The ear produces wax to prevent insects and dirt from entering it. If an insect tries to enter the ear – it gets caught in the sticky wax in the external ear and stays there – it cannot go deeper. When wax becomes old – it usually becomes less sticky and comes out of the ear on its own as dry flakes. However in some cases this does not happen – and the wax accumulates in the ear and gets stuck there. This can then cause pain. The pain can occur at any time – but usually occurs after pouring water on the head which results in the water going into the ear and causing the wax to expand.
What should you do about wax – No attempt should be made to clean the ear or remove the wax on a regular basis. If your child complains of ear ache – an ENT specialist must be consulted who will then extract the wax as an office procedure with his instruments. Ear drops must also be applied only after consulting a doctor.
- Boils – Boils may occur in the ear from time to time because of an infection of a hair follicle in the external ear. This can cause severe pain and fever.
What should you do about boils – Fever, pain and swelling of the ear is the sign for you to take your child to the doctor immediately. Never delay. Never attempt self-treatment. It can have dangerous consequences
- Insect in the ear – An insect entering the ear can be extremely frightening and also terribly distressing for the child.
What should you do about an insect in the ear – Never try to remove an insect from the ear by yourself. You may end up damaging the ear drum. Take your child to the doctor immediately. If the insect is still alive inside the ear and is moving around and causing too much discomfort to the child – a few drops of glycerin can be poured into the ear to immobilize the insect until you reach the hospital.
- Object in the ear – While they are playing – children sometimes – accidentally insert some small objects into their ears. Once an object goes into the ear there is panic and adults and children around usually try to take the object out.
What you should do about an object in the ear – Never try to remove an object that has gone into the ear. You may end up pushing the object deeper and causing injury to the ear or you may end up getting the object stuck in such a way that even the doctor may find it difficult to take out. Take your child to the doctor immediately. Don’t panic. If the object stays in one place – it is unlikely to cause any damage
- Fungal infections of the ear – Fungal infections of the external ear usually happen because water goes into the ear and remains there for a long time. This typically happens when the child swims in water that is not clean enough
What to do for a fungal infection – It is unlikely that you will be able to identify and detect a fungal infection on your own. A fungal infection is usually diagnosed by a doctor. However if you see black or green particles coming out of the ear – you may suspect it. A fungal infection of the ear must necessarily be treated by a doctor – see a doctor immediately. Avoid swimming. Be careful not to let water go into the ears when you wash your child’s hair
- Injury to the ear – Injury to and around the ear is quite common. Injuries can occur when a child is hit or slapped. Injuries can also occur if the child is hit by a ball or other object – close to the ear.
What to do about an ear injury– Injuries to the ear are serious medical conditions as they can cause the ear drum to rupture or break. This can result in deafness and infection. Immediate action is necessary. The child must be taken to the doctor immediately.
- Diseases of the middle ear – The diseases of the middle ear are severe. They can cause fever, extreme pain and deafness very rapidly.
The infections of the middle ear occur because of accumulation of fluid in the small space. Fluid begins to accumulate there when children have prolonged colds that remain untreated. Under normal circumstances – the fluid that is formed in the ear flows out through a tube called the Eustachian canal which opens in the nose. When the nose is blocked due to a cold – the fluid begins to accumulate there and after a while gets infected.
What to do for a middle ear infection– Do not neglect colds in children. Keep the nose unblocked with steam inhalation and saline nasal drops.
Although we see very little of the ear and rarely notice its presence, it is an organ we can’t do without. Never take your child’s ears for granted. Attend to any pain in the ear immediately. Take your child to the doctor and follow his instructions and advice diligently.