When Should I Call The Doctor
Very rarely, ear infections that don’t go away or severe repeated middle ear infections can lead to complications. So kids with an earache or a sense of fullness in the ear, especially when combined with fever, should be seen by their doctors if they aren’t getting better after a couple of days.
Other things can cause earaches, such as teething, a foreign object in the ear, or hard earwax. Your doctor can find the cause of your child’s discomfort and treat it.
Symptoms Of Inner Ear Infection
Your child may feel dizzy or even experience vertigo, which is a sensation that she, or the room, is spinning. You may notice your toddler losing balance, for instance, by falling to one side.
Loss Of Hearing
There could be a mild or complete loss of hearing.
There might be a sense of pressure building up inside the ear. As a result, the child may seem cranky or fussy.
Your baby may hear humming or ringing sounds in the ear. The child may be irritable or inattentive due to this. Sleep may also be hard to come by because of the disturbing sound.
Look out for a fever of or higher than 100.4°F .
Nausea Or Vomiting
Nausea or vomiting is again common in outer ear infections.
A discharge from your babys ear is a sign of an infection.
Your baby may experience problems with vision. For instance, vision may get blurred or your babys eyes might move on their own making it difficult for her to focus. Pay attention if it seems like your baby doesnt seem attracted by things like bright toys that she previously liked or finds it difficult to focus her eyes.1112
Can I Do Anything To Prevent Ear Infections In My Child
It is not easy to prevent ear infections, but the following may help reduce the risk:
- making sure your child’s environment is smoke-free.
- breastfeeding your baby for at least 3 to 6 months is thought to be protective against the early development of ear infections – this may be because breastfeeding boosts the infection-fighting system
- keeping your child’s room warm and dry
- making sure your child has all their immunisations on time
You May Like: Rudolf The Red Nosed Reindeer
How Is An Ear Infection Diagnosed
Your healthcare provider will look at your or your childs ear using an instrument called an otoscope. A healthy eardrum will be pinkish gray in color and translucent . If infection is present, the eardrum may be inflamed, swollen or red.
Your healthcare provider may also check the fluid in the middle ear using a pneumatic otoscope, which blows a small amount of air at the eardrum. This should cause the eardrum to move back and forth. The eardrum will not move as easily if there is fluid inside the ear.
Another test, tympanometry, uses air pressure to check for fluid in the middle ear. This test doesnt test hearing. If needed, your healthcare provider will order a hearing test, performed by an audiologist, to determine possible hearing loss if you or your child has had long lasting or frequent ear infections or fluid in the middle ears that is not draining.
Your healthcare provider will also check your throat and nasal passage and listen to your breathing with a stethoscope for signs of upper respiratory infections.
Signs And Symptoms Of Ear Infection In Babies
Ear infections are the scourge of parents everywhere. Theyre so common that it is estimated that 5 out of 6 children get an infection of the middle ear at least once before they reach the age of three.1 Less commonly, they might also get infections in their ear canal and outer ear or inner ear . So how do you spot if your child has an ear infection? We have some answers!
You May Like: Ear Buds For Hearing Aids
When Should I Call The Doctor About An Ear Infection
- You or your child develops a stiff neck.
- Your child acts sluggish, looks or acts very sick, or does not stop crying despite all efforts.
- Your childs walk is not steady he or she is physically very weak.
- You or your childs ear pain is severe.
- You or your child has a fever over 104° F .
- Your child is showing signs of weakness in their face .
- You see bloody or pus-filled fluid draining from the ear.
- The fever remains or comes back more than 48 hours after starting an antibiotic.
- Ear pain is not better after three days of taking an antibiotic.
- Ear pain is severe.
- You have any questions or concerns.
What Happens If My Baby’s Infection Goes Untreated
Some ear infections will resolve on their own, but some will not. It will cause your baby too much pain, and it could lead to irreversible hearing loss. It could also lead to severe infections like mastoiditis, facial nerve paralysis, and eardrum perforation. Please do not wait until it is too late. Observe your baby, and if the problem persists, seek medical advice. The doctor may also prescribe some pain killers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen or ear drops to ease the pain. You could also massage and put olive oil drops in the ears.
Read Also: Why Is My Nose Runny
How To Prevent Ear Infections In Babies And Children
The following are steps you can take to lower your child’s risk of recurring ear infections.
- Breastfeed your baby for at least six months. Breast milk provides antibodies against ear infections. A major study published in the journal Pediatrics showed that children who are breastfed for the first 6 months of life are less likely to develop ear infections.
- Hold your baby upright when feeding him. Hold him so his head is higher than the rest of his body. Babies fed while they’re lying down are more likely to develop AOM.
- Wean your baby off the pacifier if your baby is prone to ear infections. Babies who are 6 months of age or older are slightly more likely to develop ear infections if they use pacifiers. But since using pacifiers in the first year may help protect against SIDS, ask your baby’s doctor about the best time to wean.
- Wash your hands often. Although ear infections aren’t contagious, the respiratory infections that lead to them are. Keep your child’s hands clean, and stay away from people with respiratory infections whenever possible.
Should I Take My Baby To The Doctor
Even if you are unsure if your baby is experiencing an ear infection, it’s better to err on the side of caution and call your doctor.
If they do not believe there is an issue, they may tell you to stay home. However, since baby ear infections are so common, its likely they will have you come in for an exam. There is no harm in getting things checked outthe worst that will happen is that your baby doesnt have an ear infection and you can feel some relief.
You May Like: Best Tea For Sore Throat And Cough
What You Can Do
Doctors arenât as quick to prescribe antibiotics these days because ear infections often clear up on their own.
If your baby is older than 6 months, their doctor might choose to hold off for a couple of days to see if the symptoms pass. In the meantime, ask your pediatrician if it would help ease your childâs discomfort if you:
- Give them over-the-counter infant pain relievers.
- Use saline drops or spray to lower swelling and stuffiness from a cold. If the blocked ear drain doesnât open up, your doctor may suggest putting in small ear tubes for a while.
- If your baby is prescribed antibiotics, finish all the medicine even if they get better. Otherwise, the infection can come back quickly.
How Does A Doctor Diagnose A Middle Ear Infection
The first thing a doctor will do is ask you about your childs health. Has your child had a head cold or sore throat recently? Is he having trouble sleeping? Is she pulling at her ears? If an ear infection seems likely, the simplest way for a doctor to tell is to use a lighted instrument, called an otoscope, to look at the eardrum. A red, bulging eardrum indicates an infection.
A doctor also may use a pneumatic otoscope, which blows a puff of air into the ear canal, to check for fluid behind the eardrum. A normal eardrum will move back and forth more easily than an eardrum with fluid behind it.
Tympanometry, which uses sound tones and air pressure, is a diagnostic test a doctor might use if the diagnosis still isnt clear. A tympanometer is a small, soft plug that contains a tiny microphone and speaker as well as a device that varies air pressure in the ear. It measures how flexible the eardrum is at different pressures.
Read Also: How To Get Rid Of Mucus In Throat And Nose
How Are Ear Infections Diagnosed In Infants
Your childs pediatrician can diagnose an ear infection. To make a diagnosis, they will use a light called an otoscope to look for fluid in the middle ear and to monitor pressure. The pediatrician will also use the otoscope to look at the color and position of the eardrum.
The best thing you can do to prevent ear infections in your little one is to reduce the risk of getting ear infections in the first place.
This can include doing things like:
5 out of 6 children will have at least one ear infection by the time they turn 3 years old.
If theres no high fever and much pain, doctors may recommend waiting a few days to see whether things improve before prescribing antibiotics.
When antibiotics are prescribed, they are typically taken for 5 to 10 days. However, pain relief may be felt as early as the first day of taking them. Its important to take the entire prescribed amount, even if your child starts feeling better.
Your childs pediatrician may wish to see your child after the antibiotics to make sure that everything has cleared up. Fluid may remain without inflammation for a few weeks.
Some children experience ear infections more frequently than others. If a child experiences frequent ear infections or has trouble hearing because of fluid in the middle ear, their doctor may discuss surgically placing a tube in their ear. The tube can help drain fluids and normalize pressure on both sides of the eardrum.
Can Ear Tubes Help With Repeated Ear Infections
Possibly. Doctors vary on whether ear tubes should be used for recurrent ear infections because there isn’t much research on their effectiveness, and the available data is inconclusive. According to the AAP, “More and better controlled studies of tube placement would help determine its benefit versus harm.”
If your child’s doctor suggests ear tube surgery, you’ll have a conversation about the procedure’s pros and cons. The doctor may suggest this treatment if your child:
- Is at least 6 months old
- Has recurring hearing problems or speech delays due to multiple ear infections
- Has persistent fluid behind the eardrum
- No longer responds to antibiotic treatment
The AAP says ear tubes can be offered to babies and children who have had three episodes of recurrent AOM in six months, or four episodes in one year with the most recent episode occurring within the last six months.
Here’s how ear tube surgery works:
- Your child is taken to the operating room and given general anesthesia.
- An otolaryngologist makes a tiny incision in the eardrum and removes fluid using suction.
- The doctor inserts a small tube into the slit.
- The tube releases pressure and acts as a vent, letting air in and fluid out, so bacteria can’t flourish.
- Your child will wake up in the recovery room.
As with any surgery, there are risks, which can include the following:
- Complications from the anesthesia
- The tubes can sometimes come out by themselves
- Increased risk of damage to the eardrum
Recommended Reading: Can Hear Heart Beating In Ear
How Do Ear Infections Happen
A middle ear infection usually happens because of swelling in one or both of the eustachian tubes . The tubes let mucus drain from the middle ear into the throat.
A cold, throat infection, acid reflux, or allergies can make the eustachian tubes swell. This blocks the mucus from draining. Then, or grow in the mucus and make pus, which builds up in the middle ear.
When doctors refer to an ear infection, they usually mean otitis media rather than swimmer’s ear . Otitis media with effusion is when noninfected fluid builds up in the ear. It might not cause symptoms, but in some kids, the fluid creates a sensation of ear fullness or “popping.”
When To See A Doctor
If you suspect your child has an ear infection, a trip to the doctor is a good idea. Once you notice symptoms of an ear infection, Dr. Madden says you should take them in, especially if they have a fever.
Whenever a baby is clearly uncomfortable and seems sick, they should be seen by a doctor, adds Dr. Johns. However, dont automatically assume that some symptoms mean they have an ear infection. For example, she notes that pulling or tugging of the ears is not always a sign of an ear infection. It may just be teething discomfort, and babies simply cant localize the origin of the discomfort very well, so they grab the first thing they can, the ears, she says.
Find a Pediatrician Near You
Zocdoc helps you find and book top-rated doctors, on demand. Visit them in their offices, or video chat with them from home. Check out the Pediatricians in your area.
You May Like: Glacier Ear Nose And Throat
What Causes Ear Infections In Infants
Ear infections are usually the result of bacteria that develop when fluid builds up behind the eardrum. Viruses can also cause ear infections.
Ear infections often begin when a child has a cold, cough, or other upper respiratory infection. The same viruses responsible for these illnesses can cause an ear infection. A bacterial ear infection can develop during a cold or cough, too.
The Ear Tube Controversy
While ear tubes do have their place in treating recurrent ear infections, there does exist some controversy over their use. The advantages are listed above, but some common concerns about tubes are:
- Some doctors may be too quick to recommend ear tubes before exhausting all other preventative measures or before allowing enough time to allow the ears to clear up without surgery.
- As with any surgery, there are risks to general anesthesia.
- The tubes often leave a little scar covering approximately one-sixth of the eardrum. This scar is often permanent. There does not seem to be any long-term consequence of this scarring, but were not completely sure. Please note that recurrent ear infections with or without eardrum rupture can also lead to scarring.
- Please note that ear tubes dont always prevent ear infections. Some children will still get as many infections even with the tubes in, but the fluid drains out right away.
- Many children benefit from ear tubes, parents declaring their child is a new person The ear infections are gone, hearing has improved, no more sleepless nights with a crying child, no more endless courses of antibiotics.
- A general indication for tubes are chronic ear fluid for more than four to six months, more than three ear infections in six months, or more than five in one year. You and your doctor should decide together when it is the right time for ear tubes for your child.
Read Also: How To Get Your Nose To Stop Running
Still Not Sure Head To The Doc
The only way to be sure that your child has an ear infection is to visit your pediatrician. Take a child younger than age 2 to the doctor if a cold and/or apparent discomfort doesn’t go away in two or three days, or if the fever doesn’t go away in one or two days.
When your physician peeks in your child’s ear to check for signs of an infection, they’re looking at the eardrum to see if it is red, thick, or bulging. If so, depending on the severity of the infection and other factors, they may suggest waiting it out to let it resolve on its own. Or they might prescribe medication, typically antibiotics, to help speed healing along.
Additionally, your child’s pediatrician can suggest whether your child would benefit from ear drops or over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Sitting up and being propped up a bit while sleeping can help alleviate ear pain, as can sitting in a warm, steamy bathroom.
Limit The Risk Factors
Do not expose your baby to cigarette smoke, tilt your baby when nursing, and propped up when drinking from bottles. Do not allow bottles in bed. You could also gradually reduce the usage of pacifiers to only a short time. To stop thumb sucking, provide distractions such as toys or apply something bitter on the thumb.
Don’t Miss: Back Of Tongue Bumps Sore Throat
What Happens If My Child Keeps Getting Ear Infections
To keep a middle ear infection from coming back, it helps to limit some of the factors that might put your child at risk, such as not being around people who smoke and not going to bed with a bottle. In spite of these precautions, some children may continue to have middle ear infections, sometimes as many as five or six a year. Your doctor may want to wait for several months to see if things get better on their own but, if the infections keep coming back and antibiotics arent helping, many doctors will recommend a surgical procedure that places a small ventilation tube in the eardrum to improve air flow and prevent fluid backup in the middle ear. The most commonly used tubes stay in place for six to nine months and require follow-up visits until they fall out.
If placement of the tubes still doesnt prevent infections, a doctor may consider removing the adenoids to prevent infection from spreading to the eustachian tubes.