The human ear, which is a sensory organ that helps us hear and maintain the balance of the body, is divided into the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear. Exposure to disease-causing agents such as bacteria, viruses, etc., is one of the common causes of an ear infection. The inflammation of the inner ear, middle ear, and the outer ear, is referred to as otitis interna, otitis media, and otitis externa, respectively. The infection is very common in infants, as their immune system has not yet fully developed. However, adults can also develop an infection. Normally, this condition can be easily treated with the help of drugs, but caution needs to be exercised in case of pregnant women who have developed an ear infection. In severe cases, the healthcare provider may recommend the use of drugs that are safe to use during pregnancy.
Contributing Factors and Symptoms
This condition occurs when disease-causing agents such as bacteria or viruses find a way into the ear. Most of the time, the causal pathogens are bacteria or viruses that cause common ailments such as cold, influenza, or sinus infections. Thus, pregnant women must be very careful when such infections are prevalent.
In case of adults, the blockage of Eustachian tube, a slender and narrow tube that connects the middle ear to the pharynx, could be a contributing factor. While this tube equalizes the middle ear pressure with the atmospheric pressure, it also drains the secretions from the middle ear. If this tube becomes blocked, the ear secretions or infected fluid may not be drained out. The fluid may start putting pressure on the eardrum. When the middle ear gets clogged due to improper drainage, bacteria or viruses may start multiplying.
Exposure to the pathogens gives rise to inflammation, which in turn may give rise to a host of symptoms that are associated with this condition. Affected individuals are likely to experience the following symptoms:
- Temporary hearing loss
- Ear discharge
- Feeling of pressure in the ear.
It is extremely important to determine the nature of the infection. Once the causal organism has been identified by the doctors, they can suggest the best treatment option.
Precautionary Measures and Treatment Options
In case of a severe bacterial infection, doctors may have to prescribe antibiotics for alleviating the symptoms. However, doctors make sure that they study the possible risks or the side effects of drugs on the fetus, before prescribing any drug for the treatment of ear infection during pregnancy. Doctors make sure that they prescribe an antibiotic that is considered to be safe.
Whether or not an antibiotic would be prescribed during pregnancy would depend on the category under which these drugs have been placed by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). The drugs are placed under pregnancy category system, wherein the classification is made on the basis of risks to a fetus that may be caused owing to the usage of any particular antibiotic. Amoxicillin and Tylenol are antibiotics that are commonly prescribed for treating ear infections in pregnant women. These are placed under category B. While studies have revealed that category A antibiotics are the safest as these don't cause any harm to the fetus, most of the antibiotics are placed in the category B. Though the use of these antibiotics has not been linked any complications or adverse impact on the growth of the fetus, such assumptions are based on studies that have been conducted on animals. Though these are definitely safer than antibiotics in category C and category D, these must be used only if your healthcare provider feels that these drugs don't pose any risks. The patient must also take it as per the prescribed dosage.
Women can also try certain home remedies for alleviating the symptoms. Here are some of the tried-and-tested remedies that would make you feel better:
- Application of warm compresses on the affected ear can prove beneficial.
- Putting a few drops of slightly warm olive oil in the affected ear may also help in the treating the ear pressure caused due to a buildup of wax.
- You can also fill up salt in a clean sock and warm it a little in the microwave. Placing this warm sock over the infected ear may help in draining out the wax. This will help in reducing the feeling of pressure in the ear.
Since common cold, flu, or sinus infections can also increase the risk of ear infections in pregnant women, women who are pregnant must make sure that they consult a doctor on experiencing symptoms associated with any of these diseases.
- Inhalation of steam will certainly loosen up mucus, and help in alleviating the symptoms caused by cold, flu, or sinus infections to some extent.
- You can also consult a herbal practitioner regarding herbal concoctions that are considered to be safe for treating an ear infection during the course of pregnancy. However, it's advisable to consult your healthcare provider before trying any of the alternative healing remedies.
Pregnancy is a time in which even an insignificant health problem can cause stress to the expectant woman. Such fears are natural, after all, nothing is more important to a pregnant woman than the health of her unborn child. Though home remedies can alleviate the symptoms of an ear infection to some extent, it's advisable to seek medical help for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.