Learn the symptoms, causes, and treatments for this typical childhood ailment.
If your baby turns fussy, or begins crying more than usual, be on the lookout for an issue. If he develops a fever (whether minor or high) you have another huge clue. Ear infections tend to strike after an acute rhinitis or sinus infection, so keep that in mind too.
How Common Are Ear Infections?
Recently, I noticed my 8-month-old kid yanking on his right ear. That, integrated with his unusual crankiness, got my attention. Was he teething? Just discovering his ear? Or could he be signaling that he was struggling with an ear infection? He was simply getting over a cold, so I chose to call the pediatrician’s office. The nurse recommended bringing him in for a fast peek at his ears. The verdict: no ear infection! While I was relieved, the event did get me believing. Did I need to drag him in each time he plucked his ear? That appeared a little extreme. However what if I was too laid back and missed a real ear infection? I chose it was time to learn a bit more about this common childhood ailment. Here’s what I found out.
” Next to the acute rhinitis, ear infections are the most common disorder in children,” states Margaretha Casselbrant, MD, PhD, chief of the department of pediatric otolaryngology at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. The painful facts are that more than 80 percent of children will be diagnosed with an ear infection by the time they commemorate their 3rd birthday, almost half of these kids will have struggled with 3 or more ear infections by age 3, and the prime time for ear infections is in between 6 and 24 months.
Why Are Kids Prone to Ear Infections?
First a fast description: ear infections occur when fluid gets caught in the middle ear (an air-filled area situated behind the eardrum) and becomes infected by bacteria or an infection. This is more than likely to take place when the eustachian tube (a narrow passage that connects the throat to the middle ear) becomes blocked. Generally, this clog is triggered by swelling or blockage from a cold, which is why an ear infection typically develops on the heels of a cold. Allergies can also cause inflammation that blocks the eustachian tubes.
Anatomy is a contributing element too. A child’s eustachian tubes are shorter, less angled, and floppier than a grownup’s, which suggests that both fluid and bacteria are more likely to get trapped in the middle ear. In addition, a child’s body immune system is still establishing, so she has a harder time than an adult in fighting off viruses and bacteria.
How Can Parents Recognize an Ear Infection?
Due to the fact that infants and toddlers do not yet have the language skills to let you know how they’re feeling, spotting an ear infection is especially tough. “Older kids will come to you and say, ‘My ear harms,'” says Max M. April, MD, chair of the committee on pediatric otolaryngology for the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. “An infant undoubtedly isn’t really going to have the ability to do that.” So what can parents be on alert for? “In general, a fever above 102 degrees F. is one of the hallmarks of an ear infection in a nonverbal child,” Dr. April says. Ear tugging is not a trustworthy sign, however ear infections are painful, so your child’s tears or increased irritation may be a symptom. Likewise, if your baby ends up being more upset when she’s lying down, an ear infection may be to blame, since that position puts pressure on the eustachian tubes. Other signs of an ear infection can consist of trouble sleeping, reduced appetite, vomiting, or diarrhea. And you may see that your child doesn’t hear well; she may not respond to noises around her as she typically would, for example. Rest assured– her hearing will return as soon as the infection is gone and her ear is without fluid.
A definite red flag: fluid or pus draining pipes from your child’s ear. This can signal a perforated eardrum, a condition that can develop if the fluid in the center ear puts so much pressure on the eardrum that it bursts. Although a burst eardrum might sound frightening and can be extremely painful for your child, the hole is not severe and will typically recover by itself.
Are Antibiotics Needed for Ear Infections?
Though antibiotics are extremely typically used to treat ear infections, the most recent thinking is that doctors needn’t right away whip out their prescription pads. Sometimes, a watch-and-wait approach might be suitable. “The science is now revealing us that 80 percent of the time, kids will improve without an antibiotic,” states Ellen M. Friedman, MD, author of My Ear Injures! A Total Overview of Understanding and Treating Your Child’s Ear Infections (Fireside). That’s due to the fact that one-third of ear infections are brought on by infections, which don’t react to antibiotics. And some of the infections triggered by bacteria will enhance on their own. Furthermore, repeated dosages of antibiotics that might be baseless can spur the advancement of resistant bacteria, which is another huge issue, Dr. Friedman states.
Whether your child takes antibiotics is based on several elements, including his age and the seriousness of his symptoms. It prevails to recommend antibiotics for babies and toddlers who have an ear infection. “With children younger than 2, practically everybody settles on giving antibiotics,” Dr. April says. “Kids that age aren’t verbal enough to tell you, ‘My ear actually harms. It’s getting worse.’ Plus, they’re more susceptible to complications from ear infections, such as hearing loss or other rarer problems.”
or kids older than 2, watchful waiting is an alternative if the symptoms are mild and if the doctor doubts that the child has an ear infection. So if your young child is otherwise healthy, doesn’t have a high fever, and isn’t extremely irritable, and if you’re a household who will absolutely follow up, your doctor may decide to wait 48 to 72 hours to see if the issue will improve by itself, Dr. Friedman explains. Dr. Casselbrant includes, “Your child doesn’t need to be perfectly back to typical within two to three days, but his symptoms need to have improved.” If they haven’t, your doctor will ask you to come back or will simply provide you an antibiotic prescription.
Whether your child ultimately takes antibiotics, his pediatrician will likely arrange a follow-up check out a number of weeks later to ensure that the infection is gone. For the most parts, the ear infection will be history and your child will be none the even worse for the wear. However, for children with recurring ear infections, your doctor may suggest seeing an expert, called an otolaryngologist. She might discuss placing ventilation tubes in your child’s ears to avoid fluid from building up. In some children, fluid can stay in the center ear long after an infection is gone. This fluid not only sets a child up for another ear infection, but it can also cause continued hearing loss that may interfere with language advancement. “If your child has actually had five or six ear infections in a year or has actually had fluid behind his eardrum for more than 3 months, he might take advantage of having tubes placed in his ears,” Dr. Friedman describes.
Are Ear Infections Avoidable?
There are no warranties, but you can take these steps to reduce your child’s chances of winding up in the doctor’s office.
- Breastfeed. Research studies reveal that 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding can safeguard a child.
- Do not smoke, and avoid pre-owned smoke. “Cigarette smoke disables the small hairs that line the eustachian tubes,” Dr. Friedman states. “When that takes place, mucus does not get vacated the middle-ear space, which raises the risk for an infection.”
- Have your child vaccinated. A 2007 study released in the journal Pediatrics took a look at Prevnar, a vaccine that secures versus pneumococcal bacteria, which can cause ear infections, meningitis, and other diseases. The research study discovered that Prevnar has helped in reducing the number of babies and toddlers who establish regular ear infections. The vaccine works only for specific stress of bacteria that cause ear infections, Dr.
- Friedman states, so it’s not sure-fire, however it is an excellent idea.
- Avoid big daycare settings if possible. Children in daycare tend to get more ear infections than those who aren’t registered. If day care’s a must, the less kids, the much better, Dr. Casselbrant says. After all, the more kids your child is around, the higher the chance that someone will have a cold or another health problem that she can get.
- Don’t let your child drink from a bottle or sippy cup while she’s lying flat. When your child is consuming, her head ought to be higher than her stomach so the liquid cannot stream from the eustachian tube into the middle ear, Dr. Friedman says.
- Take preventative measures against allergic reactions. “If you believe allergies might be causing your child’s ear infections, be proactive by removing as lots of allergenic products from your home as possible,” Dr. Friedman says. For instance, bar pets from your child’s sleeping area, keep the rooms where she invests the most time as devoid of dust as possible, and choose bedding without feathers or down.
How Can I Ease My Child’s Ear Infection Pain?
To lessen your child’s pain from an ear infection, your pediatrician may advise acetaminophen or ibuprofen. However avoid over-the-counter eardrops unless your doctor suggests them, as they can cause irreversible damage if your child’s eardrum is perforated. Also avoid flying on an airplane when your child has an ear infection since the change in air pressure can considerably increase pain or even rupture the eardrum, Ellen M. Friedman, MD, states.