Dr. Keith N. Finlayson graduated from the University of Utah’s Medical School in 1975. After finishing his residency in 1980 he began his practice in Salt Lake City Utah. He has been an otolaryngologist for 29 years.
What recommendations do you give to parents on preventing ear infections?
Dr. Finlayson: If your child gets a cold, use a decongestant to prevent mucous build up.
A lot of people don’t know this but second-hand smoke causes many health problems and ear infections are one of them. If the parents smoke, they should either quit or smoke out of doors.
Practice overall good health like visiting your pediatrician for checkups and keeping vaccinations up to date.
When are ear tubes recommended?
Dr. Finlayson: Multiple antibiotics have failed. If the child has persistent middle ear fluid or other underlying medical problems such as Down syndrome. There is also something called serous otitis media (SOM) which is often under diagnosed because it is not painful. Children with SOM sometimes come in with delayed speech development.
Do children with SOM sometimes have vestibular disorders as well, such as balance problems?
Dr. Finlayson: I'm not sure if there is scientific documentation on that but mothers often report that their child who is of walking age or perhaps a little bit delayed will walk for the first time within a few days of having ear tubes placed.
What causes ear infections in adults?
Dr. Finlayson: I see very few middle ear infections, (otitis media) in adults. I do see external ear infections (otitis externa) caused by putting things like Q-tips or paper clips inside the ear.
Do you ever recommend removing earwax?
Dr. Finlayson: Earwax is healthy and should be there. It’s best not to interfere with the body’s natural way of removing unwanted debris out of the ear. One rule is nothing smaller than your elbow should go inside your ear. People often think that they’re cleaning their ear out with a Q-tip, when what they’re really doing is pushing the wax down further and packing it in. I also saw a case where the patient was cleaning his ear with a Q-tip and someone bumped him. The Q-tip went right through his ear drum and had to be surgically repaired.
Some people cannot eliminate earwax on their own and we have to give them ear drops to dissolve the wax. Otherwise, if you are worried about your ears being dirty, you can use a wash cloth or tissue over your little finger to clean it.
How do you treat swimmer’s ear?
Dr. Finlayson: We almost always use antibiotic ear drops. Occasionally we use oral antibiotics. Sometimes the ear can be swollen shut. This makes it difficult to use the ear drops so we put a wick in the ear to administer the drops. The wick falls out on its own once the swelling goes down.
What about preventing swimmer’s ear?
Dr. Finlayson: I see a lot of cases caused by cleaning the ear with alcohol. This dries the ear out and causes it to become chapped. In these cases, I recommend you stop using alcohol. Use two drops of olive oil or baby oil to keep the ear lubricated. If your ears are well lubricated and you still have problems with swimmer’s ear you may need to use ear plugs.