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Ear Infections Aren’t Just For Kids

Mention an ear infection and some people may cringe as they recall a childhood episode involving a painful earache. Because ear infections are most commonly seen in children, we might think that as adults, we have ‘outgrown’ them. However, ear infections are a concern for adults as well– especially as one of the main culprits in causing them is the flu.

Ear infections result when the passages that connect the middle ear to the back of throat and nose become obstructed. Known as the Eustachian tubes, they are responsible for maintaining the equilibrium between the air pressure in the middle ear and that of the outside world. Viruses, such as the flu, often affect the functioning of the nasal passages and can cause the Eustachian tubes to become blocked. This blockage allows fluid to build up in the normally air-filled tubes. As a result, viruses and bacteria that have entered the middle ear have friendly conditions in which to proliferate.

Symptoms of an ear infection include:

  • Dull to painful ache due to pressure on the eardrum
  • Loss of hearing
  • Loss of balance (vertigo)
  • Drainage from the ear (a possible sign of a ruptured eardrum)
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Fever
  • Chills

Ear infections can be very uncomfortable and disruptive to our day-to-day activities. If you are susceptible to the flu, you should take extra care towards prevention. Complications from the flu can be wide-ranging, having a potentially serious impact on the overall health of the nose, ears, and throat. An Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist should be consulted if signs of an ear infection arise.

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