Fluid in the ear is also called otitis media with effusion or serous otitis media. When the auditory tube, which normally drains into the back of the throat, becomes clogged or obstructed in any way, the ear can then fill up with fluid. It occurs most often in children and can have serious repercussions on their development, but can also occur in adults. It can have no symptoms and frequently goes undiagnosed, but there are a few things you can do to prevent fluid in the ear.
To prevent fluid in the ear you first must understand the conditions that cause the auditory tube to become blocked. Fluid in the ear often occurs after a cold or other upper respiratory infection when the auditory tube becomes blocked by mucous. It is important to prevent colds by:
- always washing your hands and your child's hands
- disinfecting toys that your child may put their mouth on
- practicing good habits like covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze
- having an annual flu shot
- staying at home when you are sick and avoiding other people who are sick
When you get a cold or other illness it's important to see your doctor and get treatment. In the case of a bacterial infection such as strep your doctor can get you started on necessary antibiotics.
Another condition that can cause fluid in the ear is allergies. If you or your child has allergies it's important to work closely with your doctor to manage your symptoms to prevent fluid in the ear. Failing to treat your allergies can also lead to long term problems that can contribute to fluid in the ear like chronic sinusitis and anatomical obstructions like nasal polyps.
Other ways to prevent fluid in the ear include:
- avoiding secondhand smoke
- propping your infant/small child up while they are drinking
- elevating your upper body while lying down to allow the auditory tube to drain better
Some individuals are more prone to get fluid in their ears because of their natural anatomy, (size and angle of their auditory tube in relation to other structures), but by being conscientious you may be able to prevent fluid in your ears.
American Academy of Pediatrics. Clinical Practice Guidelines: Otitis Media With Effusion. Accessed: March 25, 2011 from http://aappolicy.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/pediatrics;113/5/1412
DHPE. Otitis Media. Accessed: March 25, 2011 from http://www.dhpe.org/om.asp