Non Chronic Childhood Conditions Ear Infections

Second only to the common cold, ear aches (medically referred to as otitis media) occur frequently in both infants and children. In fact, about 75 percent of children have had an ear infection by the age of three.

Otitis media occurs when the eustachian tubesbecome inflamed and swollen. The eustachian tubes are tubes that connect the ear cavity to the pharynx. They equalize pressure on either side of the eardrum and allow drainage from the middle ear to the throat.

Ear Aches and Other Symptoms of Ear Infection

An ear infection is usually caused when a virus or bacterium gets inside the ear, typically as a result of another illness. If your child gets sick, watch carefully to see if his ears are also affected. Some indications that your child may have developed an ear infection are:

  • crying more than normal
  • diarrhea
  • difficulty sleeping
  • ear pulling
  • fever
  • fluid draining out of the ear
  • hearing trouble
  • problems keeping balance
  • problems seeing
  • vomiting.

If your child shows any of these symptoms, call your doctor for immediate diagnosis and treatment.

How Long Do Ear Infections Last?

With or without treatment, the symptoms of an ear infection often resolve themselves after a few days. If your doctor prescribes antibiotics, the course of antibiotics generally lasts for about 10 days to make sure the infection is gone. Fluid often remains in the ear for several months, though, even with treatment.

Treatment for Otitis Media

Although some ear infections do get better on their own, your doctor will likely prescribe an antibiotic for otitis media. He may also recommend acetaminophen for ear pain relief.

If your child has an infection that just won’t go away, your doctor may perform a procedure called a myringotomy, in which the eardrum is punctured with a needle to drain the fluid. This should relieve some of the ear pain your child experiences.

If your child has fluid in his ear for several months, the doctor may recommend a surgery called a tympanostomy. During a tympanostomy, the doctor first performs a myringotomy and then inserts a tiny tube into the eardrum to allow continuous drainage. This procedure is generally performed in only the most serious cases of ear infections.

Seeking immediate treatment for ear infections is important because, if left untreated, your child can suffer from complications, including:

  • brain abscesses
  • chronic suppurative otitis media (a persistent type of ear infection)
  • epidural abscesses
  • facial nerve paralysis
  • hearing loss
  • mastoiditis
  • meningitis
  • speech delays.

Preventing Ear Infections

To prevent otitis media, pay careful attention to your child, particularly when he is sick. Get familiar with the indications of otitis media, and call your doctor right away if you suspect an ear infection.

Keep your child away from people who are smoking, and don’t smoke near your child. The smoke is bad for the delicate parts of the ear.

Immunization can help prevent the bacteria that cause ear infections. A new vaccination called Prevnar® immunizes against pneumococcus bacteria, a common cause of ear infections. Doctors recommend that all children under two years of age get the vaccine.

Resources

Xlear (2007). Ear Infection Symptoms. Retrieved August 3, 2007 from the Xlear Inc Web site: http://www.xlear.com/articles/ear-infection-symptoms.aspx.