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"Can strep throat cause ear infections?"


My granddaughter was dealing with strep throat for a while. She finally got rid of it with antibiotics, but it took some time. Now, she has started developing ear infections (though her throat seems to be fine). I have to believe they're connected, even though the doctors say otherwise.


It seems there are several questions at issue here. How old is your granddaughter? Did your granddaughter have proven strep throat (proven by a throat culture)? How many episodes of strep throat has she had? How long after her strep throat did the ear infections start? Do her parents or siblings get recurrent throat or ear infections? These answers will help her pediatrician determine if the two infections might be linked. Throat infections can be caused by viruses or bacteria.

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Strep throat is caused by a bacterial infection with Group A streptococcus and is characterized by fever; sore throat, often with pus on the tonsils; absence of cough; and tender lymph nodes. Viral pharyngitis is characterized by fever, sore throat, runny nose, and cough. Patients may have ear pain at the same time, for one of two reasons as will be described. The throat and the ear share some of the same nerves, so that throat pain can be felt as pain in the ears. Also, the inflammation of the soft tissues in the throat can cause the Eustachian tube to become temporarily "pinched off." The Eustachian tube connects the throat and the middle ear (the site of a typical "ear infection") and allows air to travel between them and equalize the pressures. When the Eustachian tube is temporarily pinched off, pressure can build up in the middle ear. If a viral or bacterial infection is present, the middle ear can become filled with pus or fluid which causes pain. If your granddaughter has had recurrent episodes of pharyngitis and ear infections, it is worth considering whether she has a deficiency of antibodies at her mucosal surfaces, called IgA deficiency. More likely, she has a normal immune system and is being exposed to multiple viruses at school or through her siblings. By reviewing the above-listed questions with her pediatrician, he or she can determine if more testing is necessary.

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