Ear discharge is in most cases due to Middle Ear infection otherwise called otitis media. This is a disease of the middle ear; the ear has three parts—outer ear, middle ear and inner ear. The middle ear infection may be accompanied by clear or pus discharge. The infection is fairly common in developing countries like Nigeria. Other countries include China, Thailand, India, Tanzania, Philippines, and Vietnam among others.
Middle Ear infection is a disease of infants and young children below 3 years of age but could affect older people. Peak period is 6-18 months of age. The infection may last for a short period or up to three months.
1. What Causes Ear Discharge?
Ear discharge is usually due to an infection of the middle ear; this infection is caused by germs (bacteria); there are about three different types. In most cases the problem starts with viruses causing the common cold (catarrh) accompanied by the narrowing of some tracts connected with the ears.
2. Can Ear Infection Spread from Person to Person?
Middle Ear infection does not spread from person to person but it is more common in crowded living conditions and among children left in day care centres.
3. When Do You Suspect Your Child May Have the Infection?
Symptoms of middle ear infections are many though some children may not feel ill.
Infants may be irritable, may hold his ear, refuse to eat or unable to sleep. This may follow an episode of catarrh.
Older children may complain of ear pain.
In both cases, there may be ear discharge
If you notice the above, please take the child to the doctor for proper examination and treatment.
4. What Can Put You/your child at Risk.
The following factors are associated with middle ear infections:
Age-infants and young children are more prone to the infection; Sex—more common in males than females; Breast feeding—breast-fed children have less infections; Poverty—infections more common in poor homes; Day care centres—children kept in daycare centres more prone to ear infections; Air pollution—infection more common in households with cigarette smoke.
5. What are the Possible Complications of Ear Discharge?
Possible complications include infection of the brain, infection of some bones in the head, deafness and poor development of speech/language.
The infection of the brain or some bones of the head could cause death and paralysis of the face respectively
A few things can be done to prevent middle ear infections; these include breast feeding of the newborn, studies have shown that breast-fed infants have less ear infections than bottle-fed infants.
Another preventive measure is reduction of household smoking including cigarette smoke.
Finally, good nutrition for the baby/child.
Ear infections should be prevented by all means; if it occurs make sure you take the child to see a doctor for proper treatment. As shown by the possible complications above, the consequences of an untreated or poorly treated ear infection could be disastrous.