Sometimes, it seems like childhood and ear infections go hand in hand. Children are prone to ear infections thanks to the anatomy of their ears and their frequent exposure to germs. While ear infections cause pain and discomfort, they are rarely serious, and easily treatable. Chronic cases may require surgery or other long-term treatment options.
Symptoms & Causes
Ear infections are the result of fluid building up and becoming trapped in the middle ear. They occur when the Eustachian tube becomes blocked, and represent one of the top reasons for pediatric visits. This isn’t surprising: the immune system and Eustachian tube are still developing during the first two years of a child’s life, making them more prone to infection. Factor in exposure to a variety of germs in daycare and school settings, and it’s no wonder children end up with so many ear infections!
Symptoms of ear infection in children include a painful earache, especially when lying down. Your child may pull or tug on the ear, and will likely display increased irritability. He or she may have fluid drainage from the affected ear, trouble sleeping, hearing loss, headache, fever, dizziness, loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Treatment for Ear Infection
Your child’s doctor will examine the ears with a lighted instrument called an otoscope for signs of infection such as fluid. Additional tests (tympanometry to measure eardrum movement, acoustic reflectometry to test sound reflection) may be used to verify the diagnosis.
Many times, an ear infection will run its course and go away on its own without the need for medical treatment. If your child’s doctor takes this wait-and-see approach, you can treat pain with over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol or Motrin. Avoid aspirin, which can be dangerous to children. Prescription eardrops can help with pain and fever. A warm, moist washcloth held gently against the ear can soothe discomfort. Antibiotics are prescribed for cases caused by bacteria.