What causes bacterial ear infections?

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Bacterial ear infections are caused by blockage or dysfunction of the eustachian tube which is the tube that drains fluid from the ear into the throat.  Many things can lead to eustachian tube blockage.  These include common colds, nasal allergies, enlarged adenoids or tonsils, and household exposure to smoke.  When this tube is blocked, fluid builds up in the middle ear.  This fluid is a great growth media for bacteria.  The nose and throat are routinely colonized by bacteria.  These bacteria that are present can begin growing in the fluid and a bacterial ear infections begins.

Bacterial ear infections are often caused as a result of fluid build-up in the middle ear. The natural fluids secreted by the nose and ear are breeding grounds for bacteria, so when the fluid builds up, bacteria growth is more likely to develop and infect the middle ear. This is especially likely to happen in children, whose ear passageways are smaller, making blockages more likely to occur. The ear canal can also be a location for bacteria to grow and cause infections if the canal remains too moist.

Swollen adenoids can also cause the condition. Adenoids are structures located at the top of your throat that help your body combat infection. But if adenoids become inflamed, they don't fight off infection as well. Swollen adenoids can also constrict the tubes that drain ear and nose fluid, so it can also contribute to the build-up of fluid in the middle ear and cause an infection that way.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.