The flu can hit your home fast and hard with symptoms such as a high fever, severe body aches, chills, runny nose, sore throat, cough, vomiting and much more. Unlike other bacterial and viral illnesses, the flu can linger for a number of days and sometimes even weeks in the most severe cases. Staying in bed, staying hydrated and getting better are key points to getting better but for some people, secondary infections can occur as a result of the flu. Pneumonia is a big culprit, especially in the elderly population and ear infections are very common among children and young adults.
What Is It?
An ear infection occurs in the middle ear area and can be bacterial or viral in nature. When it comes after a flu it can be caused by the virus itself or by bacteria that has grown because of fluid buildup in this area during the height of flu symptoms. Typically the most common symptoms associated with an ear infection is pain in the affected ear or ears, discharge from the ear, a plugged feeling in the ear or dizziness. An ear infection can sometimes go away on its own but really shouldnâ€™t be ignored as it can lead to complications like hearing loss if left untreated.
How Is It Treated?
If an ear infection has stemmed from the flu the ear infection itself can be treated. The influenza virus is viral in nature so an antibiotic isnâ€™t going to work for that. However, if the ear infection is bacterial-based then an antibiotic can help. There are also a number of ear drops that can be administered directly in the ear canal to help alleviate pain, pressure and infection.
How Can You Tell Them Apart?
Pretty different in nature, ear infections will showcase symptoms that are pretty specific to the inner ear region. Unless the infection has spread you wonâ€™t feel the full body aches and symptoms that you feel with a flu virus. The flu can really knock a person off of their feet for an extended length of time and usually the person will be bed ridden for a number of days. While an ear infection can be a complete nuisance, you can usually function to some degree with it.
If you are sick at home, or one of your children is sick and this prevents you from being able to get to the doctor immediately there are some ways you can cope with an ear infection at home. Of course rest is beneficial but when you lay down, have the affected ear upwards in the air if you are sleeping on your side. This can help your ear drain rather than have the fluid building up and symptoms becoming worse. You can apply warm and moist heat to the area around the ear as well as on top of the ear by way of a washcloth or a heating pack. Be careful not to use too hot of a temperature as you can burn yourself on this sensitive area. There are also over the counter ear drops that may help alleviate pain a bit and help you get through a few days where you can then be seen by your doctor. Hot showers provide heat and steam to loosen fluid and flush the area out.
In order to prevent the flu as well as secondary infections such as an ear infection, the flu vaccine can be administered prior to the start of flu season. Depending on where you live, this could be as early as September or October. The flu vaccine is not one hundred percent effective against protecting against the flu but it can help create a pretty good barrier against illness along with proper rest, diet and exercise.