Winter brings along a lot of fun cold-weather activities and cups of hot cocoa by the fire, but it can also bring an increased risk of illness. While it’s common that the flu goes around during the winter months, ear infections also seem to occur more often during this time of year. We spoke with Dr. Blake Anderson, an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) physician at Utica Park Clinic about winter ear infections and the steps you can take to help prevent them.
Dr. Anderson shares that the best preventative measures against ear infections include “frequent handwashing, avoiding others who are sick, and using wipes to sanitize items used frequently by many people”. When washing your hands, it’s important to remember that it is most effective to do so with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Make sure to get your hands, fingertips and under your fingernails if possible. Sanitizing door knobs, kitchen appliance handles, faucet handles and anything else people frequently touch can also greatly reduce your risk of a winter ear infection. There are several other precautions you can take, including bundling up as soon as the temperature in our area drops. Wear gloves, hats and scarves when appropriate. Be vigilant about keeping your vaccinations up-to-date to help prevent an illness that could lead to or include a middle ear infection.
Dr. Anderson says the most common type of ear infections he sees during winter are middle ear infections. These are especially common in children. “This is probably because viral illnesses are more common in the winter. Viruses can cause swelling of nasal tissues and dysfunction of the cilia that clear nasal secretions. This leads to the Eustachian tube that clears our ears not working, allowing fluid and bacteria to build up behind the ear drum,” he adds.
Symptoms of a middle ear infection include ear pain, fever and congestion. Dr. Anderson notes that middle ear infections differ from external ear infections, which are more common in the summer. While ear infections can often heal themselves without antibiotics, if you’ve been having a lot of ear pain or pain for several days, it’s smart to call your doctor.
If you are looking for an ENT to help you with a winter ear infection, please call (918) 459-8824 to make an appointment with Dr. Anderson. He sees patients in Tulsa, Cushing and Pryor.