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How Kids Get Ear Infections & When You Should Go to the Doctor

Ear infections are a common childhood ailment. Scientifically known as Acute otitis media, which means infection of the middle ear, it is caused by fluid that gets trapped inside the ear due to unequal pressure on either side of the eardrum, which then gets infected. Ear infections commonly occur after a cold or due to allergies that cause excess fluid to drain from the nose and into the throat.


What Are the Main Causes of Middle Ear Infections?


An ear infection can occur when fluid becomes trapped in the middle ear instead of draining properly into the throat. This happens as a result of inflammation which causes swelling of the eustachian tube, which connects our middle ear space to our nasal passages. The eustachian tube can become inflamed due to excessive mucus production due to a cold or other respiratory infection. Nasal Aallergies (“hay fever”) can also be the cause of an ear infection. In general, children’s eustachian tubes are more prone to these types of obstructions than adults.


Sometimes chronic ear infections aren’t due to illness or allergies, but are instead related to a congenital problem, such as a malformation of the eustachian tube, or a cleft palate.

Typical Symptoms of an Ear Infection


How do you know when your child has an ear infection? Look for any of the following symptoms:
  • Fever
  • Irritability
  • ​Ear pain
  • Fluid draining from the outer ear
  • Poor sleep
  • Pulling on the ears
  • Problems with hearing


Not all of these symptoms will be present at once. It is especially difficult to tell if a baby has an ear infection when they can’t communicate the source of their discomfort. Ear infections are often mistaken for teething and vice versa -  In addition, in an infant without any fussiness or fever, pulling the ears may simply be a habit and not related to infection.

How is an Ear Infection Diagnosed?


The only way to know for sure that your child has an ear infection is to go to the doctor. Your pediatrician will have a special instrument called an otoscope that is used to look inside the ear and detect signs of inflammation, such as redness and swelling. The otoscope also detects unusual movement of the eardrum by blowing a puff of air into the ear. 

How is Acute Otitis Media Treated? 

If your pediatrician suspects that your child has an ear infection they will typically start by prescribing an antibiotic to relieve the infection. We may also recommend that they be given ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help relieve pain or fever. Usually a child will start to show signs of improvement within 48 hours of starting antibiotics. However, as with any antibiotic treatment, it is necessary to continue to take the medication for the total recommended timeframe (usually 10 days). 


In cases of chronic ear infections (repeated reinfection or fluid that remains in the ears for more than 3 months) it may be necessary to see an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist to have tubes placed in the ears to drain them. The tubes serve to relieve the pressure in the middle ear, which can prevent future infections. These tubes typically fall out on their own after about one year (on average).

What Are the Risks if a Middle Ear Infection is Not Treated?


Some ear infections will heal themselves over time, but if left untreated and the infection worsens, there can be serious side effects. The infection can spread to other places, or the child could experience speech and language development delays and even permanent hearing loss. It is always best to have an ear infection treated as soon as possible.

Who is at a Greater Risk for Ear Infections?


While ear infections are common and can happen to anyone, in both children and adults, there are some factors that put some at a greater risk than others. Such as:


  • Living in a home where someone smokes.
  • Having frequent colds.
  • Children who go to daycare.
  • Babies who lay on their backs to drink from a bottle.
  • Family history of ear infections.
  • Impaired immune system. 


Think Your Child May Have an Ear Infection? Call Advocare Haddon Pediatric Group


We reserve appointments each day for sick child visits. If you believe your child has an ear infection, call the office that is most convenient for you and we will do our best to see you the same day if possible. 


Call (856) 294-5600 to schedule an appointment at our Mullica Hill office or (856) 547-4573 for our Haddon Heights office. We will do our best to help your little one feel better as soon as possible. 
Posted: 4/24/2020 4:28:50 PM by Paul Matz | with 0 comments

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