How Common Are Ear Infections?
Just recently, I noticed my 8-month-old child pulling on his right ear. That, combined 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 just getting over a cold, so I decided to call the pediatrician’s office. The nurse recommended bringing him in for a quick peek at his ears. The decision: no ear infection! While I was eased, the event did get me believing. Did I have to drag him in whenever he pulled at his ear? That appeared a little extreme. However what if I was too relaxeded and missed a real ear infection? I decided it was time to find out a bit more about this typical youth ailment. Here’s what I discovered.
” Next to the cold, 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 celebrate their 3rd birthday, nearly half of these kids will have experienced three or more ear infections by age 3, and the prime-time show for ear infections is between 6 and 24 months.
Ear infections are typical in babies and young children, particularly in the winter season. Many happen in babies aged six months to 18 months, however they can appear at any age. We do not know why, however boys are likewise most likely to obtain ear infections than girls.
Why Are Kids Prone to Ear Infections?
First a fast explanation: ear infections occur when fluid gets caught in the middle ear (an air-filled space located behind the eardrum) and ends up being infected by bacteria or a virus. This is most likely to occur when the eustachian tube (a narrow passage that links the throat to the middle ear) ends up being blocked. Typically, this blockage is brought on by swelling or congestion from a cold, which is why an ear infection typically establishes on the heels of a cold. Allergies can likewise cause inflammation that obstructs the eustachian tubes.
Anatomy is a contributing aspect too. A child’s eustachian tubes are shorter, less angled, and floppier than a grownup’s, which means that both fluid and germs are more likely to get caught in the center ear. In addition, a child’s body immune system is still establishing, so she has a tougher time than an adult in fighting off infections and bacteria.
How Can Parents Identify an Ear Infection?
Due to the fact that babies and toddlers don’t yet have the language skills to let you know how they’re feeling, spotting an ear infection is particularly tough. “Older kids will concern you and say, ‘My ear injures,'” states 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 pulling 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 resting, an ear infection might be to blame, since that position puts pressure on the eustachian tubes. Other indicators of an ear infection can include difficulty sleeping, reduced hunger, vomiting, or diarrhea. And you may notice that your child doesn’t hear well; she might not respond to sounds around her as she usually would, for example. Feel confident– her hearing will return once the infection is gone and her ear is free of fluid.
A guaranteed red flag: fluid or pus draining pipes from your child’s ear. This can signal a perforated eardrum, a condition that can establish if the fluid in the middle ear puts so much pressure on the eardrum that it bursts. Although a burst eardrum might sound frightening and can be very painful for your child, the hole is not serious and will usually recover by itself.
Are Antibiotics Needed for Ear Infections?
Though antibiotics are very frequently used to treat ear infections, the latest thinking is that doctors needn’t right away take out their prescription pads. In some cases, a watch-and-wait approach may be suitable. “The science is now showing us that 80 percent of the time, kids will improve without an antibiotic,” states Ellen M. Friedman, MD, author of My Ear Injures! A Complete Overview of Understanding and Treating Your Child’s Ear Infections (Fireside). That’s because one-third of ear infections are caused by infections, which don’t respond to antibiotics. And some of the infections brought on by bacteria will enhance on their own. Moreover, repeated dosages of antibiotics that may be unwarranted can spur the advancement of resistant bacteria, which is another big problem, Dr. Friedman states.
Whether your child takes antibiotics is based upon numerous factors, including his age and the intensity of his symptoms. It’s common to prescribe antibiotics for babies and toddlers who have an ear infection. “With children younger than 2, almost everyone agrees on providing antibiotics,” Dr. April states. “Kids that age aren’t verbal adequate to inform you, ‘My ear really hurts. It’s worsening.’ Plus, they’re more prone to complications from ear infections, such as hearing loss or other rarer problems.”
or kids older than 2, watchful waiting is an option if the symptoms are mild and if the doctor is uncertain that the child has an ear infection. So if your young child is otherwise healthy, doesn’t have a high fever, and isn’t incredibly irritable, and if you’re a family who will absolutely follow up, your doctor may choose to wait 48 to 72 hours to see if the problem will get better on its own, Dr. Friedman describes. Dr. Casselbrant adds, “Your child doesn’t need to be completely back to regular within two to three days, however his symptoms must have improved.” If they have not, your doctor will ask you to come back or will merely offer you an antibiotic prescription.
Whether or not your child eventually takes antibiotics, his pediatrician will likely schedule a follow-up go to several weeks later on to make sure that the infection is gone. In many cases, the ear infection will be history and your child will be none the worse for the wear. However, for children with repeating ear infections, your doctor may suggest seeing a specialist, called an otolaryngologist. She might go over putting 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 likewise cause ongoing hearing loss that may interfere with language advancement. “If your child has actually had 5 or 6 ear infections in a year or has actually had fluid behind his eardrum for more than 3 months, he may benefit from having actually tubes positioned in his ears,” Dr. Friedman explains.
Are Ear Infections Preventable?
There are no warranties, however you can take these actions to reduce your child’s odds of winding up in the doctor’s office.
- Breastfeed. Research studies show that 6 months of special breastfeeding can protect a child.
Do not smoke, and stay away from pre-owned smoke. “Cigarette smoke paralyzes the small hairs that line the eustachian tubes,” Dr. Friedman states. “When that happens, 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 against pneumococcal bacteria, which can cause ear infections, meningitis, and other diseases. The research study found that Prevnar has helped reduce the number of babies and toddlers who establish frequent ear infections. The vaccine works just for specific stress of bacteria that cause ear infections, Dr. Friedman states, so it’s not foolproof, however it is an excellent concept.
- Avoid large day care settings if possible. Children in day care have the tendency to get more ear infections than those who aren’t enrolled. If daycare’s a must, the less kids, the much better, Dr. Casselbrant states. After all, the more kids your child is around, the greater the possibility that somebody will have a cold or another disease that she can pick up.
- Don’t let your child drink from a bottle or sippy cup while she’s lying flat. When your child is consuming, her head needs to be higher than her stomach so the liquid can’t stream from the eustachian tube into the middle ear, Dr. Friedman says.
- Take safety measures against allergic reactions. “If you think allergies could be triggering your child’s ear infections, be proactive by removing as numerous allergenic products from your home as possible,” Dr. Friedman states. For instance, bar animals from your child’s sleeping area, keep the spaces where she invests the most time as free of dust as possible, and choose bed linen without feathers or down.
How Can I Alleviate My Child’s Ear Infection Pain?
To lessen your child’s discomfort from an ear infection, your pediatrician may advise acetaminophen or ibuprofen. But prevent over the counter eardrops unless your doctor advises them, as they can cause permanent damage if your child’s eardrum is perforated. Also steer clear of flying on an airplane when your child has an ear infection because the modification in atmospheric pressure can considerably increase pain or even rupture the eardrum, Ellen M. Friedman, MD, states.