The middle ear infection is one of the most common childhood illnesses, although it affects adults too. Up to half of the population has suffered otitis media in their childhood due to the ear structure and the vulnerability of their immune system typical for this period. In adulthood and advanced age the risk declines.
A relatively unpleasant and painful middle ear infection can be provoked by common colds or viral respiratory diseases. Usually, bacteria called Streptococcus pneumonia are responsible for the illness. Infection spreads via Eustachian (auditory) tube which in children is shorter and more open with a lesser tilt to the nasopharynx. In this way infection enters the middle ear more easily. In adulthood, the auditory tube is usually closed and it opens only on swallowing or yawning. The middle ear is at risk of bacterial infection due to a poor nasal drainage of mucus.
In children with a weak immune system the middle ear infection may recur and progress to a chronic stage. The risk of chronic infection increases along with the child’s age. The disease may also be subject to the environment where children grow up. A smoke-filled home (passive smoking) tends to be one of the risk factors, as well as a poor hygiene or a short-term breastfeeding. Children with allergies very often suffer from non-purulent ottis media.
Signs and symptoms
Although the intensity varies (in small children symptoms may be missed), the disease indicators are usually clear. Apart from severe ear pain of increasing intensity, the inflammation is accompanied by fever around 38 -39°C. The pain rises with cough and swallowing, or at night. Less common signs are diarrhoea and vomiting. Older children with ottis media are aware of a temporary hearing impairment or the feeling of a clogged ear. Pus appearing in the ear canal as a result of punctured eardrum indicates a purulent inflammation. Releasing the pus brings a great relief to a patient and the more severe pain subsides.
Preventing otitis media
Preventing colds, a weak immune system, or any diseases of a bacterial origin are essential to avoid the middle ear infection. Therefore, a healthy diet rich in vitamins that boost immunity, wearing appropriate clothes with regard to the weather, avoiding draft, and other similar precautions need to be taken. If upper respiratory diseases cannot be evaded, it is necessary to keep sinuses clear on a regular basis. Hot water baths may help to alleviate cold. In some cases, or with recurrent middle ear infections, adenoids are preventatively removed.
The treatment of otitis media is always initiated with antibiotics, however, these disrupt intestinal microflora. After the course of antibiotics, the intestinal balance should be restored using food supplements, vitamins or herbs. If mucus or pus accumulate in the middle ear and no spontaneous burst of the eardrum occurs, a doctor intervenes, hereby providing a great relief. Boosting the immune system using natural food supplements is recommended during the recovery.
Impact of the immune system on otitis media
A compromised immune system may promote recurrent middle ear infections. The weaker the immune system, the more frequent the infections and subsequent inflammations. A very rare cause may be the Kartagener syndrome, which leads to a dysfunction of cilia responsible for clearing the respiratory tract. So a disturbed immune system may be a primary cause of recurrent middle ear infections managed by antibiotics that, on the other hand, interfere with intestinal microflora and compromise the body. Therefore, the immune system should be reinforced by natural food supplements as a form of preventative and complementary treatment.