Childhood Diseases Common Illnesses Ear Infection

Ear infections are a common occurrence in childhood. As a parent, you’ll want to have a basic understanding of ear infections, how they are caused and what treatment options are available. Ear infections are usually temporary; they tend to go away within a few days. Children generally stop getting ear infections by the age of 4. Keep reading for more essential information about ear infections.

Causes of Ear Infections

An ear infection is caused when the Eustachian tube, the tube that goes from the middle ear to the back of the throat, becomes blocked. If a blockage occurs, fluid can build up. This fluid allows germs such as viruses and bacteria to multiply, leading to infection. Infants and young children get frequent ear infections because their Eustachian tubes can become easily blocked. Large amounts of mucus and saliva produced during teething is also a common cause of ear infection in toddlers. Allowing a child to drink regularly from a bottle or sippy cup while lying down can contribute to ear infections.

Ear Infection Symptoms - Ear Infections in Children

Common Ear Infection Symptoms

Signs of ear infection pain in infants are crying and possibly fever. They may also be irritable and have trouble sleeping. Tugging at the ear does not necessarily mean that an ear infection is present. Symptoms in older children include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fullness in the ear
  • Malaise (general feeling of being unwell)
  • Pain or earache
  • Possible temporary hearing loss in affected ear
  • Vomiting.

These are the most common symptoms of ear infection. Contact your physician if you have questions or concerns, as ear pain symptoms may also be present during or shortly after a cold.

Ear Infection Treatment Options

Many ear infections clear up on their own in just a few days, and antibiotics won’t help an infection caused by a virus. For this reason, doctors like to wait and observe symptoms before prescribing a prescription.

Some things you can do to ease the ear pain without antibiotics are the following:

  • Ask the doctor about ear drops for pain
  • Apply a warm cloth or hot water bottle
  • Give over-the-counter ear pain relief drops, if cleared by your child’s pediatrician
  • Offer a pain reliever such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

Avoid use of aspirin, as it’s been linked to Reye’s Syndrome when given with viral illnesses, and can potentially lead to liver failure or death. If no improvement is seen or if symptoms get worse, call your doctor.

Antibiotics may be prescribed if your child is showing symptoms of illness beyond the ear infection. This treatment option is usually prescribed for infants under the age of 6 months. In children with frequent, recurring infections, or who are at risk for hearing loss, surgery may be performed. This surgery usually involves placing drainage tubes in the ears to avoid fluid buildup, and is normally a last resort.

Resources

Kids Health Staff. (2008). Middle ear infections. Retrieved December 16, 2009, from the Kids Health Web site: http://kidshealth.org/parent/infections/ear/otitis_media.html#.

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2008). Ear infection, middle ear definition. Retrieved December 16, 2009, from the Mayo Clinic Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/ear-infections/DS00303.

Med Line Plus Staff. (2009). Ear infection-acute. Retrieved December 16, 2009, from the Med Line Plus Web site: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000638.htm.