These can be useful for troublesome outer ear infections known as ‘otitis externa’. If a quick course of treatment fails to work or otitis externa becomes a recurrent problem, you may want to take an ear swab to find out what type of infection is causing the problem.
Symptoms of ear infection include pain, itching, irritation and a feeling of pressure within your ear; you may notice redness of the ear or ear canal, swelling, scaly skin and sometimes there is a discharge which can range from clear and watery to thick pus-like coloured yellow, brown, green or blood tinged. You may experience swollen glands near your ear and in your throat, reduced hearing and pain when you move your jaw or if cold air blows past your ear.
In our lab we process your swab using detailed microbiological diagnostic methods and, unlike most other labs, all bacteria found are identified and tested. We also advise if we find normal healthy skin bacteria which do not cause disease. Any disease-causing bacteria are extensively tested against a panel of antibiotic treatments.
Treatment includes pain relief, antibiotic and steroid drops or spray, in addition to keeping the ears dry (no swimming or getting them wet in the shower or bath). Sometimes a procedure called microsuction is used to clean away discharge and debris if it is excessive.
Middle ear infections
Middle ear infections, or acute otitis media, are especially common amongst children due to differences in anatomy. They are a type of upper respiratory tract infection and can happen after a sore throat or cold. Most children grow out of suffering repeated ear infections.
These infections can cause pain, earache, fever and sometimes discharge if the eardrum bursts. Most repair and there are no further problems. For the few who suffer repeated infections, a referral through to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgeon is recommended.
Inner ear infections
Inner ear infections can cause hearing loss and rotational dizziness (vertigo). They do not always cause earache or ear pain and are most commonly caused by the virus type ‘labyrinthitis’ that usually resolves spontaneously after a week or two, however, it may last longer and often recurs in a milder form in the future when another virus triggers symptoms. If you experience profound vertigo and nausea, a doctor can prescribe medication to help relieve symptoms.