Apart from the many health issues triggered by winter season, ear infections in people of all age groups is on rise these days. Many people are being diagnosed with middle and inner ear infections which are generally caused by inflammation from a bacteria or virus.
Experts are saying the number of ear infection cases have gone up substantially as compared to last year and that it remains to be studied whether Omicron is the culprit behind the rise. The infection spreads to one’s middle ear and leads to the fluid buildup behind the eardrum.
“Around 10-12 patients present on daily basis with ear infections. It is more commonly seen in children. The number seems significantly high as compared to last year and it needs to be studied whether Omicron spread is leading to more ear infections this year,” says Dr. Alkesh Oswal (ENT), Apollo Spectra Hospital, Pune.
The expert says that the chances of ear infections in children and adults increases in winter season as bacteria and viruses thrive in cold weather due to which flu and viral infections become a common occurrence and can take a toll on the ears.
“The main cause for ear inflammations can be attributed to compromised immunity in the cold, which leads to irritation and the trapped moisture or bacteria causing otitis media. The infection is seen due to sore throat or even respiratory infection, as the Eustachian tube is blocked and one experiences pain,” says Dr Oswal.
The expert says that sinusitis if left untreated can also give a tough time to the ears as ear infections are linked to nose and throat infections.
The symptoms of an ear infection can be ear pain, dizziness, headache, tenderness, swelling, unusual discharge, and temporary hearing loss.
“The ear pain will be intense if one goes in open space when there is exposure to cold air,” says Dr Oswal.
Winters and most recently continuous use of earphones could have contributed to rising ear infection in pandemic years as per experts.
“I see around 10 patients with ear infections on a daily basis. We see lot many people with ear infections in winters as increase in dryness of ears, allergic rhinitis contributing to it followed by fungal ear infections called as Otomycosis. Also increase in episodes of cough and cold, paediatric ear infections such as AOM are common too. Even sore throats and nasal infections contribute to earaches. The numbers have increased in the present and past year because of continued ear phone usage for schools and work, wrong ear cleaning habits and excessive use of buds,” says Dr. Vrushali Rahul Telang, Consultant ENT Lokmanya Hospital.
Extreme cold can also impact our ear health and can cause pain.
“Rough weather conditions can be unbearable for your ears. During winter, the weather is cold and it can irritate sensitive tissue in the ear canals, and one will encounter ear pain. Since there is less blood circulation during cold, there is an uptick in ear infections,” adds Dr Telang.
– Antibiotics, anti allergics and pain relievers can help. Take as per doctor’s advice.
– Use ice packs or warm compresses, like a heating pad or damp washcloth, to manage earache.
– Keep the ear clean and dry. If there is water in the ear, one may experience pain too.
– Try to keep the ears warm by wearing a hat, headband, or scarf.
– Don’t use cotton in the ears to protect them from the wind. Doing so can cause inflammation in the ear canal
– Try to keep germs away by washing your hands with soap and water
– Make sure your nose is clear and ears are clean
– Take a flu vaccine
– Aoid smoking as cigarette smoke is an irritant, and inflame the airway
– Wear earmuffs and get rid of common cold, flu and sinusitis to avoid ear infection