Earaches are one of the most common ailments that children face. Those who frequently get earaches as a child typically outgrow them as the mature into adulthood. Why is it that earaches generally don’t manifest in adults? To understand how earaches correspond with the development of your child’s ears, nose and throat, it is important to understand how a healthy and fully developed ear functions before you understand how ear infections affect your child’s ears.
How does a healthy ear function?
The Eustachian tube is a narrow passage that connects the inside of the ear to the back of the throat. When the ear is functioning at healthy levels, the Eustachian tube permits fluid from building up in the middle ear and bursting the thin barrier of the ear drum.
What causes an ear infection?
When a Eustachian tube is healthy, it keeps the middle ear pressure at equilibrium with outside air. This means that the tube is usually collapsed to protect the middle ear from the considerable number of germs that reside in the nose and mouth. Problems arise when the Eustachian tube can’t accomplish this. If the tube becomes obstructed, fluid pools in the middle ear. This obstruction traps bacteria in the middle ear, where it begins to multiply. To make matters worse, air from the middle ear is then transmitted into the bloodstream. This creates a partial vacuum, which absorbs even more bacteria from the nose and mouth into the ear.
Why do children suffer from earaches more frequently than adults?
A child’s Eustachian tube shorter, more horizontal, and straighter than an adult’s. It is also more flexible, containing a smaller and therefore more easily clogged opening. As a result of these factors, drainage is more likely to be blocked making it possible for bacteria to travel more easily. Most ear infections clear up of their own volition, although some more severe infections can require surgery. Often doctors will prescribe antibiotics to clear up a reoccurring infection though they are not always necessary or even the best option. If your child is suffering from frequent earaches, consult our friendly doctors at Alexandria Otolaryngology Associates.