KARACHI (PPI) - The cases of ear infection in children are rising sharply in Karachi, and about 30 to 35 percent patients visiting ENT doctors and surgeons of the city suffer from ear discharge and other infections, said senior ENT surgeon and former secretary general Pakistan Medical Association Karachi Dr Qaiser Sajjad. Talking to PPI here, he said though the ear infections look non-threatening but if left untreated they may pose serious consequences including permanent hearing loss and damage to brain and facial nerve tissues. He said the major cause of ear infection in children of Karachi is lack of hygienic practices both at home and community level. He said poverty and lack of awareness are also behind this issue. He said it is observed that majority of ear infection patients come from poor slums, where general hygienic and municipal sanitary conditions are the worst. He said poverty and lack of awareness result in delayed consultation with doctors, aggravating condition of patients. He said bacteria are the main culprit in majority of ear infections in children, as well as, elders, adding in some cases infections may also be viral. He said in poor slums children take bath with contaminated and dirty water, adding when this water enters ear it causes infection. He said in case of infants some mothers breastfeed them in sleeping position, which causes entering milk in babys ear, causing swift and serious infection. He said the habit of scratching and cleaning ears with dirty fingers, toothpicks and such other sharp objects ends up in agonising ear infections. To be safe, never put anything in the ear smaller than the tip of your little finger. He said the middle ear infection, Otitis media, is most common amongst children. In allergies, colds and soar throats, tubes in middle part of ear, called eustachian can get blocked up and let germs get in the middle ear and cause infection. He said injury from a blow to the head, foreign object, very loud noises like firecrackers, or sudden pressure changes (such as in airplanes) may result in a ruptured or perforated eardrum. He said eczema and other skin irritations in the ear canal can cause some ear bleeding. Dr Qaiser said most ear infections in children are treatable easily, provided patient is taken to a qualified doctor, timely. He said if left untreated the ear infection might affect brain, causing life-threatening situations. He said untreated ear infections also harm the facial nerves, causing facial disorders in patients. He said awareness and knowledge about causes greatly help parents in early and successful treatment of ear infection of their kids. He said during swimming and taking baths care should be taken to prevent entry of water into ears. He said ear plugs are available for this purpose and they could be used if affordable, otherwise small wax bars may be used, or simply extra cares taken to stop entry of water in ears. He said mothers should be asked not to breastfeed their babies in sleeping position. They should properly sit when breastfeeding, holding their babies with their heads in upright position. He said sticks and other pointy long objects should be keep out of reach of small children. He said school going children should be asked by parents and teachers not to touch ears or nose with dirty fingers, and not to insert fingers, pencils or such objects for cleaning or scratching their ear. He said washing of ears for wax-cleaning from quacks should be avoided at all costs, and if necessary wax cleaning should be get done at a qualified ENT doctor. Dr Qaiser urged the general practitioners to refer serious ear infection patients to tertiary-care hospitals for specialised treatment. He said the municipal authorities should focus on better sanitary facilities, especially provision of clean potable water and safe disposal of sewerage in slums and congested areas. He said better personal hygienic practices at home and school, especially frequent washing of hands with soap are very helpful against infections, including ear infections. He said government, medical community and media should also play their role in raising awareness about disease prevention and infection control, so as to save the masses from infections and diseases. He said special care in this regard should be given to children, because they have more trouble fighting infections, as their immune systems are still developing. He said if parents and teachers and other social stakeholders take small precautionary measures, a large number of kids could be saved from ear infection and other infectious diseases.