Who Is At Higher Risk For Ear Infections
- Children less than 5 years old, because they have shorter eustachian tubes.
- Children who attend daycare, because they tend to have more colds.
- Children with allergies.
- Children who are exposed to cigarette smoke. Smoke causes inflammation of the eustachian tube, making ear infections more likely.
- Children who were not breastfed. Breast milk has antibodies that help fight infections.
- Babies who are being bottle fed, especially if they swallow milk while lying too flat. Milk can enter the eustachian tube and cause inflammation, which increases the risk of an ear infection. Children should be held upright while drinking a bottle. When they are old enough to hold their own bottle well, they should be taught to drink from a regular cup and no longer given a bottle.
- Children with cleft palates, as their eustachian tubes are often inflamed.
- Children of First Nations and Inuit descent, though its not clear why.
Five Tips For Ear Infection Treatment At Home
Even when antibiotics are prescribed, they wont take effect for 24 to 48 hours. Your child need not suffer needlessly. There are simple, effective ways to reduce your childs discomfort and pain during an ear infection.
1.;;;Fever and pain medicine: based it on age, consult with doctor
Over-the-counter medications can help reduce pain and fever in your child. Based it on age and weight and consult with your pediatrician if necessary.
Read labels and instructions carefully when giving fever-reducing medications. Its very important to follow instructions and give the appropriate dosage according to your childs weight and age, says Dr. Hutton.
- For children younger than 6 months, give only acetaminophen, such as Tylenol.
- For children older than 6 months, you may give also give an ibuprofen product, such as Advil, for fever and pain.
- Infants younger than 3 months old who have a fever need immediate medical attention even if they appear well and show no other signs of being ill.
- Do not give aspirin to children because it can cause Reyes syndrome, a rare but very serious illness that harms the liver and brain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .
2.;;;Place a cold pack or warm compress over your childs ear
Put a cold wet washcloth on the outer ear for 20 minutes to help with pain until the pain medicine starts to work.
3.; Keep child hydrated
Make sure to keep your child well hydrated. Give lots of cold fluids.
4.;;;Elevate your childs head
What Are Other Causes Of Ear Pain
Other causes of ear pain include:
- A sore throat.
- Teeth coming in in a baby.
- An infection of the lining of the ear canal. This is also called swimmers ear.
- Pressure build up in the middle ear caused by allergies and colds.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/16/2020.
Will It Happen Again And Can It Be Prevented
Most children have at least two bouts of ear infection before they are 5 years old. These are caused by common viral infections which circulate in the general population and against which your child is not immune. There is generally nothing you can do to prevent the infection from occurring. However, there is some evidence to suggest that an ear infection is less likely to develop:
- In breastfed children.
- In children who live in a smoke-free home.
- In babies and young children who do not use dummies. However, research studies have shown that the use of a dummy in young babies when getting off to sleep can reduce the risk of cot death. So, consider using a dummy in babies up to 6-12 months old at the start of each episode of sleep. But note:
- Do not force a dummy on a baby who does not want one. If the dummy falls out when a baby is asleep, just leave it out.
- Never coat a dummy with anything such as sugar.
- Clean and replace dummies regularly.
- It is best to use a dummy only to help a baby get to sleep.
- Consider stopping dummy use at around 6-12 months old.
Occasionally, some children have recurring bouts of ear infections close together. If this occurs, a specialist may advise a long course of antibiotics to prevent further bouts from occurring.
What Causes My Toddlers Ear Infection
1. Bacterial Infection
Ear infections can stem from a virus or bacteria which cause the ear to fill with fluid behind the eardrum. In most cases, fluid will enter and leave the ear through the Eustachian tube at the middle ear, draining down the back of the nose to the throat. This is a quick process, but a blockage in this tube, which is a common side effect of a cold, allergies or sinus infection, can cause this fluid to back up. Because germs flourish in moist, dark, warm places, a fluid-filled ear is the perfect breeding ground for an infection. As an infection takes hold, the area behind the eardrum will become inflamed which causes pain. As your childs body works to fight off the infection, it can cause a fever as well.
2. Childrens Eustachian Tube Is Shorter
Babies are more prone to ear infections than older children because they have a shorter Eustachian tube which sits as a more horizontal angle. As children grow, their Eustachian tube takes on a more vertical shape and triples in size which makes drainage easier.
3. Gender and Hereditary Link
Boys are more likely to get ear infections than girls, and there is some indication that there is a hereditary link which increases this risk.
4. Bottle-feeding and Dairy Products
Bottle-fed babies are also more likely to get ear infections because they are not getting the immune support that breast milk provides. Dairy products also seem to increase the risk of infection in some children.
5. Sucking on a Pacifier
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Five Tips To Help Relieve Ear Infection Symptoms At Home
If your little one is cranky, unusually fussy and tugging at his or her ear or is feverish and having difficulty sleeping, chances are it may be due to an ear infection.
Five out of six children experience an ear infection by the time they are 3 years old, according to the National Institutes of Health. The odds are that your child will have an ear infection before kindergarten.
What causes an ear infection?
Ear infections can be caused by either bacteria or a virus, often following a cold. The common cold can cause the middle ear to become inflamed and fluid to build up behind the eardrum. The Eustachian tube, which connects the ears, nose and throat, can also become swollen.;
Children are more susceptible to ear infections than adults because they have shorter and narrower Eustachian tubes, and it is easier for germs to reach the middle ear and for fluid to get trapped there, says;Kara Hutton, MD, a;pediatrician;at;Scripps Clinic Rancho Bernardo. Babies and children also have weaker immune systems, so it is more difficult for their bodies to fight an infection.
The onset of ear infections is often on day three of a cold. Ear infections peak at age 6 months to 2 years, and are a common problem until age 8, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
What is the best treatment for ear infection?
Some ear infections require antibiotic treatment, but many can get better without this medicine.
How Do Ear Tubes Work
Ear tubes allow the fluid accumulated inside the middle ear to drain out. When that fluid cant accumulate in the middle ear, that often creates a less hospitable environment for bacteria to accumulate, explains Dr. Christina Johns, Medical Director at PM Pediatrics. And that usually means kids get fewer ear infections.
More fully developed eustachian tubes allow fluid to drain better from the ears naturally. Eustachian tubes generally reach optimal development to prevent ear infections by age 5. But until then, your pediatrician may refer you to an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist if they are concerned that your child is getting ear infections too frequently.;
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Childhood Ear Infections Explained
Ear infections happen when there is inflammation usually from trapped bacteriain the middle ear, the part of the ear connects to the back of the nose and throat. The most common type of ear infection is otitis media, which results when fluid builds up behind the eardrum and parts of the middle ear become infected and swollen.
If your child has a sore throat, cold, or an upper respiratory infection, bacteria can spread to the middle ear through the eustachian tubes . In response to the infection, fluid builds up behind the eardrum.
Children are more likely to suffer from ear infections than adults for two reasons:
- Their immune systems are underdeveloped and less equipped to fight off infections.
- Their eustachian tubes are smaller and more horizontal, which makes it more difficult for fluid to drain out of the ear.
“In some cases, fluid remains trapped in the middle ear for a long time, or returns repeatedly, even when there’s no infection,” Tunkel explains.
What Causes An Ear Infection
An ear infection usually is caused by bacteria and often begins after a child has a sore throat, cold, or other upper respiratory infection. If the upper respiratory infection is bacterial, these same bacteria may spread to the middle ear; if the upper respiratory infection is caused by a virus, such as a cold, bacteria may be drawn to the microbe-friendly environment and move into the middle ear as a secondary infection. Because of the infection, fluid builds up behind the eardrum.
How Do Ear Infections In Children Occur
Heres an anatomy lesson
The ear is divided into three parts: the outer ear canal, the middle ear space where infections occur, and the inner ear where the nerves and balance center are. A thin, membranous eardrum divides the outer and middle ear. The middle ear space contains the small bones that conduct the vibrations of the eardrum to the brain and is also connected to the back of the nose via the Eustachian tube.
Immature Eustachian tube
In infants and young children, this tube is much shorter and is angled. It is therefore much easier for bacteria to migrate from the nose and throat up into the middle ear space. As the child grows, this tube becomes more vertical, so germs have to travel upward to reach the middle ear. This is one-reason children outgrow ear infections.
When your child has a cold, the nasal passages get swollen and mucus collects in the back of the nose. This environment is a breeding ground for the bacteria that normally live in the nose and throat to begin to overgrow. Mucus is also secreted within the middle ear space just as it is in the sinuses.
Germs migrate up through the Eustachian tube and into the middle ear space where they multiply within the mucus that is stuck there. Pus begins to form and soon the middle ear space is filled with bacteria, pus, and thick mucus.
How Is An Ear Infection Treated
- If a child doesnt have too much discomfort or a high fever, the doctor will likely wait 24 to 48 hours to see if the ear infection gets better on its own. If the child does not improve or gets worse, you should take them back to the doctor.|;
- You childs doctor will prescribe antibiotics if:
- your child is moderately to severely ill with a high fever ,
- your child has severe pain,
- the condition has not improved for 48 hours, or
- the ear canal has new fluid.;
For an uncomplicated ear infection, children between 6 months and 2 years usually take an antibiotic for 10 days. Children over 2 years of age will take an antibiotic for 5 days.
The doctor might suggest acetaminophen or ibuprofen to reduce the childs pain. Only give ibuprofen if your child is drinking reasonably well. Do not give ibuprofen to babies under 6 months old without first talking to your doctor.
Do not give over-the-counter medications to babies and children under 6 years without first talking to your doctor. The only exceptions are medications used to treat fever, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen.
Children usually feel better within 1 day of starting an antibiotic. Your doctor might want to see your child again to be sure the infection has cleared up completely. Fluid can remain in the middle ear without inflammation for a few weeks.
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What To Do If You Think Your Child Has An Ear Infection
A doctor should handle the medical treatment. Ear infections require attention right away, from a doctor or ENT. Your child may need other help if he has a lot of ear infections or fluid in his ears. He may need to see an audiologist and a speech-language pathologist, or SLP.
The audiologist can test how well your child’s middle ear and eardrum work. The audiologist can also test her hearing. An SLP tests your child’s speech and language skills. The SLP can work with your child if she has any delays or problems speaking.
To find an audiologist or SLP near you, visit ProFind.
What Research Is Being Done On Middle Ear Infections
Researchers sponsored by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders are exploring many areas to improve the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of middle ear infections. For example, finding better ways to predict which children are at higher risk of developing an ear infection could lead to successful prevention tactics.
Another area that needs exploration is why some children have more ear infections than others. For example, Native American and Hispanic children have more infections than do children in other ethnic groups. What kinds of preventive measures could be taken to lower the risks?
Doctors also are beginning to learn more about what happens in the ears of children who have recurring ear infections. They have identified colonies of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, called biofilms, that are present in the middle ears of most children with chronic ear infections. Understanding how to attack and kill these biofilms would be one way to successfully treat chronic ear infections and avoid surgery.
Understanding the impact that ear infections have on a childs speech and language development is another important area of study. Creating more accurate methods to diagnose middle ear infections would help doctors prescribe more targeted treatments. Researchers also are evaluating drugs currently being used to treat ear infections, and developing new, more effective and easier ways to administer medicines.
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What Is An Ear Infection
An ear infection is an inflammation of the middle ear, usually caused by bacteria, that occurs when fluid builds up behind the eardrum. Anyone can get an ear infection, but children get them more often than adults. Five out of six children will have at least one ear infection by their third birthday. In fact, ear infections are the most common reason parents bring their child to a doctor. The scientific name for an ear infection is otitis media .
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.
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Signs It’s An Ear Infection
Because infants and toddlers don’t yet have the language skills to let you know how they’re feeling, detecting an ear infection is especially hard.
Despite what you may think ear tugging is not a reliable sign, according to experts.;So what should parents be on alert for?
“In general, a fever above 102 degrees;is one of the hallmarks of an ear infection in a nonverbal child,” says Max M. April, MD, chair of the committee on pediatric otolaryngology for the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery.;
The following signs also may indicate your child is suffering from an ear infection:
Seattle Children’s Urgent Care Locations
If your childs illness or injury is life-threatening, call 911.
Treatment for an Ear Infection
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