What’s Going Around: Ear infections, stomach bug

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Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health Physicians Roseville Pediatrics saw an increase in walking pneumonia.

They also saw the stomach bug, colds and ear infections. So far, there have been no confirmed cases of the flu there.

Dr. Joan Thode offered the following advice about ear infections:

“Ear infections arise due to the inability of fluid within the inner ear to drain efficiently, causing that fluid to build up and get infected.

The ear requires fluid for its hearing function. This fluid typically moves through the inner ear and eventually drains out the Eustachian tubes into the throat, and ultimately out of the body via the gastrointestinal tract. As the immune system responds to a virus or allergies, inflammation occurs in the tissues that line the throat. This inflammation can swell shut the exit tract of the inner ear, causing fluid that would naturally drain from the ear to get ‘stuck’ until the inflammation goes away.

The inner ears, sinuses and nasal passages are naturally lined with harmless bacteria, which take up real estate space that other “bad” bacteria can’t colonize. When the fluid in the ear backs up and becomes stagnant, the bacteria start to use the accumulated fluid as a breeding ground. This is how an ear infection occurs. Most ear infections will be cured by the body’s own immune system, which is quick to respond and fight the infection.

The pain from ear infections occurs as a result of the eardrum stretching from the pressure of the accumulated fluid, along with the presence of additional immune fighter cells. The eardrum has a nerve that can take only so much stretch before it sends pain signals to the brain.

Not every ear infection needs antibiotics, as the immune system will typically clear an ear infection on its own. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen, can decrease the pain of the inflammation. Babies younger than six months old do not have mature enough kidneys to process ibuprofen, so acetaminophen, or Tylenol, is preferred for pain relief.”

In addition to cough, congestion and fevers, UPMC Pinnacle in Camp Hill is seeing ear infections this week. Sometimes they present as a new fever after having congestion for a few days. Often they present as ear pain that comes on suddenly after a week of stuffy nose or cold symptoms. A true ear infection requires antibiotics because it is caused by bacteria.

There are many causes of ear pain that are not infection, such as pressure on the ear from sinus and nasal congestion. This could be from a virus, like the common cold, or from allergies. Sometimes ear pain is actually referred pain from a sore throat or from a dental problem.

If your child is complaining of ear pain, it is best to have their medical provider examine them to see what the cause is. If it is not an ear infection, then antibiotics won’t help and should not be used. Your doctor might recommend something else to relieve the pain.

This week, pediatricians at Penn State Children’s Hospital are seeing an increase in patients with the common cold and with upper respiratory viruses.

The CVS MinuteClinic in Lancaster has seen a flu-like illness circulating with headache, body aches, fever and chills. Some patients report a sore throat and cough. Influenza A and B testing has been negative. Symptoms last three to five days with over-the-counter fever reducers for pain and fever. Patients with a pre-existing condition should be evaluated for pneumonia or other bacterial infections.

WellSpan Pediatric Medicine Physicians in Central Pa. are seeing viral respiratory infections and the stomach bug continues to be very prevalent.

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