Ear Infection in Children
Most children will suffer from an ear infection or two sometime in their life. An ear infection is a common ailment caused by a variety of different factors and are typically easily treated. Proper diagnosis, treatment, and follow up can reduce the amount of time a child suffers from an ear infection. Read on to learn more about ear infections in infants and children.
What is an ear infection?
An ear infection is usually caused by a buildup of bacteria in the middle ear. They usually begin after a child suffers from a sore throat, upper respiratory infection, cold, or flu and bacteria from these ailments make their way into your child’s middle ear by way of the eustachian tubes. As the bacteria multiplies, fluid begins to build up behind the eardrum and causes discomfort and an interruption of normal hearing.
An ear infection usually just affects the middle ear where the small stapes, incus, and malleus bones reside. However, the infection can affect other parts of the ear to include the eustachian tube and the adenoids (the part of the ear that helps to stave off infection).
What are the symptoms of an ear infection?
Because there are 3 types of ear infections, symptoms may vary but they generally fall into these categories:
- Pain inside of the ear: during an Acute Otitis Media infection, the area in the middle ear becomes filled with fluid and the pressure build up is what causes the pain. Sometimes, a fever can develop.
- Muffled sound: after the infection has run its course, fluid may remain trapped in the middle ear. This may not result in pain, but, the fluid may interfere with the transmission of sound propagation from the eardrum to the cochlea (the snail-shaped organ that changes sound waves into electrical pulses that the brain interprets as sound). This condition is called Otitis Media with Effusion. If the fluid remains in the ear for longer periods, it may be harder for your child to fight off future infections. This is called Chronic Otitis Media with Effusion. These conditions can be diagnosed by a pediatrician using specialized equipment that can reveal the fluid behind the ear drum.
While older children have no problem expressing their displeasure with the symptoms associated with an ear infection, infants and children who aren’t talking yet give off telltale signs that can alert you to a possible ear infection. These include:
- Trouble hearing and responding to soft sounds
- Difficulty maintaining balance
- Pulling and tugging at their ears
- Crying and fussiness
- Interrupted sleep
- Drainage from the ears
If you are having difficulty determining if your infant is experiencing an ear infection, schedule a visit with your pediatrician. They will tell you whether or not this if it is indeed an ear infection. Your pediatrician will inquire about your child’s health and any recent sickness. An instrument called an otoscope will be used to look into your child’s ear canal and, in most cases, be the only procedure necessary to diagnose an ear infection. If a diagnosis cannot be made right away, additional diagnostic tests may be necessary.
How is an ear infection in children treated?
The most common treatment for ear infections is the administration of antibiotics, such as amoxicillin. The prescription usually lasts up to 10 days and is taken daily. In addition to antibiotics, over-the-counter pain medications may be recommended to help relieve pain associated with the pressure build up in the middle ear and fever, if one develops.
Follow all treatment directions given to you by your pediatrician. It is important that the medicines are taken exactly as directed so as to ensure a full recovery for your child. If you have any questions about treatment, your pediatrician will be happy to answer any and all questions you may have.
It typically takes just a few days for your child to start feeling better. If your child is still experiencing severe pain after several days of taking their medication, call your pediatrician. Sometimes a different antibiotic may need to be prescribed.
How to prevent ear infections in children
Keeping ear infections at bay usually means taking common sense steps when it comes to hygiene, health, and habits. For instance:
- If you’re a smoker, consider smoking outside and not in cars and your home. Cigarette and cigar smoke has been found to correlate with more ear infections in children regularly exposed to smoke.
- Make hand washing a routine. Children with dirty hands spread bacteria into their ear canals easier.
- Vaccinate against the flu. being sick with the flu can introduce higher levels of bacteria into the eustachian tubes which in turn raises the risk of ear infection.
- Have your child inoculated with the PCV13 vaccine. This vaccine protects against many types of bacteria infections common with children.
- Never put your children to bed with bottles or sippy cups.
- Keep sick children separated from healthy children. If you child has an ear infection, consider keeping them from going to school until the infection is gone or your pediatrician tells you it’s safe to do so.
What happens if your child frequently suffers from ear infections?
If your child seems to suffer one ear infection after another, make sure that you and your child are following the preventive measures outlined above. A child who suffers from more than 6 ear infections per year, surgical intervention may be necessary. Surgery for ear infections in children involves placing a small ventilation tube into the eardrum to help increase airflow to the middle ear and prevent fluid buildup. The tubes are usually placed into the eardrum for up to nine months or until the fall out on their own.
If the ventilation tubes fail to prevent future ear infections, your doctor may consider the removal of the adenoids to help prevent further infections from spreading to the eustachian tubes.
The Pediatric Center in Idaho Falls is your trusted source for information and treatment of ear infections in children
If you believe your infant or child is suffering from an ear infection, call us to schedule an appointment with a pediatrician with experience diagnosing and treating ear infections in children. Our office offers a pleasant atmosphere to help soothe your child as they are seen by your pediatrician. We make every effort to comfort your child and strive to make the visit as easy as possible.
Ear infections in children can be miserable. Let The Pediatric Center in Idaho Falls help your child to feel better so that they can continue doing what kids do best – being a kid.