Ear infections a complication of the common cold

Otitis : definition

The ear is traditionally divided into three parts:

  • The external ear, which consists of the pinna and the outer ear canal. This culminates internally with the eardrum.
  • The middle ear, which consists of three small bones that transmit and amplify sound vibrations. These are contained inside a type of chamber, which serves as a sound box. This is connected to the nasal passages by the Eustachian tubes.
  • The inner ear, which contains the cochlea, which is the hearing organ, and the vestibular system, upon which our sense of balance depends.
What we commonly call an ear infection (or otitis) is, in fact, an acute middle ear infection (or acute otitis media), i.e. temporary inflammation of the middle ear. The connection of the middle ear to the nasal passages via the Eustachian tubes is essential for adjusting pressure within the middle ear. But this connection makes it more vulnerable to infections: following a cold or a throat infection, the inflammation may spread to the middle ear and cause symptoms of otitis media.

Prevalence and diagnosis

Theoretically, ear infections can affect anybody, but they are primarily an ailment typical of childhood: it is estimated that 85% of children will have had at least one ear infection by the time they are 3 years old. Although this figure has been falling slightly in recent years, ear infections - along with rhinopharyngitis - are still the most common ailments in children under the age of 6. A number of factors explain this greater susceptibility among Prevent otitischildren:
  • Their immune defences are still immature and do not combat pathogenic bacteria and viruses effectively. As a result, they are more vulnerable to colds, sore throats and other infections, increasing the probability of ear infections.
  • The Eustachian tube that connects the middle ear to the nasal passages and the throat is shorter and more permeable than it is in adults. Pathogens spread more easily to the middle ear.
  • The adenoids, which are large in children, often become infected and represent another source of middle ear contamination. Due to their large size, they can also put pressure on the Eustachian tube and partially block it. Impurities present in the middle ear are not properly eliminated and may cause infection.
  • Attending a crèche or nursery increases the risk of contamination by pathogens causing ear infections.
Several studies have also demonstrated that other factors, such as passive smoking or not having been breastfed, may increase the risks of ear infections in children.

Fever and earache are the key symptoms of an ear infection. In babies who cannot talk yet, other signs may indicate that they have a sore ear: the baby frequently touches his ear, is grumpy, cries a lot, does not feed as well as usual and has difficulty sleeping. Examination of the ear canal by your doctor will confirm whether or not your baby has an ear infection.

Usual treatments and limitations

The great majority of ear infections get completely better on their own in one or two weeks. In France, at the request of the Agence nationale de sécurité du médicament et des produits de santé (ANSM - French health products agency), experts have published recommendations for the management of ear infections:

  • Following the advice of a doctor, children under the age of two years with an ear infection may be given antibiotic treatment (mainly amoxicillin) for a period of 8 to 10 days. This measure helps avoid the risks of complications in very young children, who are particularly vulnerable.
  • In children over the age of two years, the doctor will only prescribe an antibiotic if the ear infection is particularly painful or if symptoms worsen or have not improved after 48 to 72 hours.
    In all cases, to relieve your child's pain and fever, the doctor will often prescribe paracetamol or painkillers containing ibuprofen or codeine.

Physiomer and ear infections

Since they were first discovered, antibiotic drugs have been very widely prescribed for all sorts of infections. However, they only work against bacteria and have no effect on viruses. Their widespread use - sometimes unnecessary - has led to the emergence of resistant bacteria. This is a genuine public health problem because these bacteria are no longer susceptible to drugs that usually sufficed to eliminate them in the past. Without any treatment capable of stopping them, these bacteria continue to multiply in the event of an infection and cause more damage. Aware of this issue, the health authorities recommend that antibiotic use be kept to a strict minimum in order to slow down the emergence of new resistant bacteria. Despite these recommendations, France is still one of the biggest consumers of antibiotics. It is against this background that the ANSM launched its national antibiotic alert programme in 2011.

One of the ways of limiting the use of antibiotics is by adopting effective preventive measures. Using Physiomer for nasal hygiene fits squarely with this approach.
Used as a routine nasal hygiene product, Physiomer Kids improves mucociliary clearance. It thus reduces contact between bacteria and viruses and the nasal mucosa, consequently preventing the risks of infection and contamination of the ear. In children over the age of six years, its use can be supplemented by Physiomer Eucalyptus, which has decongestant properties.
Physiomer Kids has been tested in 390 children. Daily use helps to:
  • Prevent colds (50% fewer cold episodes in children using Physiomer compared to those not using it).
  • Prevent ENT complications, including ear infections (75% fewer complications in children using Physiomer compared to those not using it).
  • Reduce antibiotic use by over 70%.

Using Physiomer daily to cleanse your child's nose means offering him greater protection
against the viruses and bacteria responsible for infections and earache.