Are ear infections contagious?
One of the fears people have when they notice anyone close to them has an ear infection is if they can contact it. Just like cold and cough that can easily be passed from one person to another, can ear infections be passed from a patient to other people? Well, you should know that ear infections are not contagious, but some infections that usually follow after like cold, respiratory infections and sore throat can be passed from a carrier to another.
WHAT ARE EAR INFECTIONS
Ear infections or otitises media are infections that affect the middle ear (an air-filled, membrane-limed space behind the ear drum). These infections can come and go on their own but if severe, medical attention may be required. Ear infections mostly come from bacteria, virus, combination of bacteria and viruses, sometimes allergies. There are three types of ear infections and they are:
1. External Ear Infection
This is also known as swimmer’s ear. This infection affects the outer ear canal that connects the ear drum to the outside of the head. One of the things that cause this infection is left-over water in the ear after swimming. The water makes the ear canal to become moist and vulnerable for bacteria or fungi to grow.
This is an infection that affect the inner ear (also known as labyrinth). The infection can affect the structure of the labyrinth and interrupt how sensory information is passed from the ear to the brain.
3. Middle Ear Infection
Middle ear infection is an inflammation of the of the middle ear. This infection is most common and can affect anyone including children.
CAUSES OF EAR INFECTION
Ear infections can be caused by viruses, bacteria and allergies. Some of the bacteria can be found in the nose and throat, these bacteria are:
- Haemophilus influenzae: A type of bacteria that can cause various infections like ear infection, pneumonia, bloodstream infection and others.
- Streptococcus pneumoniae: This is a bacteria that cause middle ear infection, sepsis and pneumonia.
Viruses that cause ear infections are:
- Influenza viruses or flu
- Cold viruses
- Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
Allergies can also cause ear infection, this happens when the body’s immune system reacts to substances. Some of the allergens are:
- Pet dander (flecks of skin from animals with furs or feathers)
- Tree pollen.
These bacteria, viruses and allergens can block and inflame the nose to the eustachian tube (the tube that runs from the middle ear to the upper part of the throat behind the ears). The tube is on both sides of the ear and they prevent fluid and pressure that is secreted from pooling in the ear. When the eustachian tubes become inflamed, they swell up and there is less ventilation. The less ventilation allows the fluid and germs to pool up in the ear, this leads to ear infection.
Other reasons that can cause the eustachian tube to swell up can be:
- Sinus infection
- Smoking or being exposed to smoke from cigarette
- Changes in air pressure
- Change in climate
- Swollen adenoids
- Excess mucus
SYMPTOMS OF EAR INFECTIONS
Symptoms of ear infections are:
- Pain in one or both ears
- Drainage of pus or fluid from the ear
- Hearing loss (this is rare and temporary)
- Sore throat
It is difficult for toddlers and children to say when they have ear pain, you should look out for symptoms like:
- Hearing loss (not responding when you call them)
- Pulling at the ear
- Fussiness and crying
- Draining from fluid from the ears.
ARE EAR INFECTIONS CONTAGIOUS
Ear infections are not contagious, the only thing you can contact is the virus that triggers the infection. This virus can be spread when the virus-containing droplets from an infected person are taken in by another person. These viruses can be contacted if you touch any surface the droplets touched. Contacting these infections can increase your risk of developing ear infection.
Ear infections that are caused by bacteria cannot be contacted by another person even the bacterium itself. Most of these bacteria are found in the respiratory tract, they only cause ear infection when they block the eustachian tube.
Swimmer’s ear is not also contagious, they are only caused by remains of water in the inner ear. Kissing and sharing bedding cannot make you to contact ear infection but the virus that causes the infection can be transferred. Remember that having the virus is one step to developing ear infection.
ARE EAR INFECTIONS CONTAGIOUS IN TODDLERS
Toddlers and children can also have ear infection. In fact, ear infections are common in children between 6 months and 3 years of age. This is because the eustachian tubes are smaller and shorter. Just like in adults, ear infections are caused by virus and bacteria. When the eustachian tube is blocked and swollen, fluid and greens can accumulate in the middle ear causing ear infection. Children who are prone to some certain lifestyle or conditions can get ear infection than others.
Some factors that increase ear infections in children are:
- Cigarette smoke
- Cleft palate
- Down syndrome
- Milk; bottle feeding while lying down can cause milk to enter the eustachian tube and cause blockage.
Ear infections in toddlers just like in adults are not contagious. It is only the viruses that trigger these infections that can be spread from an infected person to an healthy person. The only way to contact these virus is by breathing in virus-containing droplets or touching surfaces that have these droplets.
ARE EAR INFECTIONS CONTAGIOUS IN DOGS
Dogs can have ear infections, the infection occurs when the air-filled space behind the ear drum is infected. Ear infections are common in dogs, they may not require medical attention but they make your dog to become uncomfortable and feel pain. You can notice symptoms like redness and swelling of the ear, bad odor from the ear, shaking of the head, hearing difficulty and pulling of the ear with the paw.
Some causes of ear infections in dogs are:
- Frequent swimming
- Foreign objects in ear
- Autoimmune disease
- Bacteria and parasites (tick)
- Allergies and yeast
- Over cleaning of the ear by the dog owner
- Shape of the ear (floppy ears) and ear canal
- Hormonal changes and disorders
Ear infections in dogs are cannot be contagious between dogs, although some ear infections are. If the ear infection is caused by bacteria or yeast, they cannot be transferred or spread to other dogs. When the ear infection is caused by parasites like ear mite, then it can be transferred to other dogs and pets.
Another way dogs can get ear problems is by continuously licking the ears of an infected dogs. The continuous licking can lead to soreness of the earlobe and infection in the ear canal of the dog.
ARE EAR INFECTIONS CONTAGIOUS IN CATS
Ear infection can affect the inner, middle or outer ear of one or both ears. This infection can cause some symptoms like shaking and tilting of the head, strong odor from the ears with black and yellow discharge, scratching of the ears with the paws, walking in circles, scabbing and buildup of wax in the ear.
Causes of ear infection in cats are:
- Bacteria and parasites
- Buildup of wax in the ear
- Foreign objects that are stuck in the ear
Ear infections in cats are not contagious to both humans or other pets unless the infection is caused by parasites like mites. If your cat has ear mites, you should take measures to prevent spread to other pets. Know that ear infections that are caused by fungi and bacteria cannot be transferred to other pets.
HOW TO TREAT EAR INFECTION
Treating ear infection depends on how severe the infection as some mild infections can disappear within 3 days without antibiotics or drugs. However, ear infection in children under 6 months needs antibiotics even if the infection is mild as it can easily spread to other parts of the body.
Antibiotics like Moxatag or Amoxil (amoxicillin) can be prescribed by your doctor if the pain from the ear infection or other symptoms are severe. To manage the fever or relieve pain, you can use ibuprofen or acetaminophen, however you should seek a doctor’s guidance before giving babies younger than 6 months.
Ear tube can be used to drain out fluid from the ear, this is done inserted surgically into the eardrum. This tube is mostly used in children who have ear infections that recurr 3 or more times over 6 months. Adults can also have this tube inserted into their eardrum.
HOW TO PREVENT EAR INFECTIONS
To prevent ear infections, you should:
- Avoid smoking or being exposed to smoke from cigarette
- Breastfeed your baby for at least 6 months, milk from the breast have antibodies that can fight against viruses and bacteria.
- Take vaccines against viruses, you should also make sure your children are vaccinated.
- Wash your hands with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds. This will help to avoid taking in some viruses. Do not touch your mouth, nose or eyes with unwashed hands.
- Keep your distance from people that are sneezing and coughing.
- Do not share items with a sick person.
Ear infections are caused by many things like bacteria, viruses, allergies, smoking, swollen adenoids and other factors. You should know that ear infections are not contagious but the viruses that trigger these infections can be transferred. When they are transferred to a healthy person, the chances of developing ear infections are higher. The best way to avoid ear infections is to avoid contacting viruses like cold, cough and flu.