When Do Children Need Tubes In Their Ears
If your child has frequent ear infections, or if he has trouble hearing because of ongoing fluid in the middle ear, he may need a tube inserted through the ear drum and into the middle ear. The tube helps to keep air pressure normal on both sides of the ear drum and helps fluid drain from the middle ear.
Putting tubes in requires a brief operation by an ear, nose and throat surgeon. Children usually go home the same day.
Causes Of A Middle Ear Infection
Middle ear infections are caused by viruses and bacteria, often resulting from other conditions that can cause blockage and swelling of the eustachian tubes that connect the throat and the middle ear. When this happens, a vacuum is created, allowing germs and fluid from the throat to enter the middle ear. A middle ear infection develops when bacteria or viruses grow in this fluid.
Children are more susceptible to middle ear infections than adults, partly because their eustachian tubes are narrower, so they are more easily blocked. Children also have relatively larger adenoids than adults. These are masses of tissue situated at the point where the nose bends into the throat that are vulnerable to infection, swelling and inflammation Ã¢â¬â when this happens, they can block the eustachian tubes and cause a middle ear infection.
Check If It’s An Ear Infection
The symptoms of an ear infection usually start quickly and include:
- discharge running out of the ear
- a feeling of pressure or fullness inside the ear
- itching and irritation in and around the ear
- scaly skin in and around the ear
Young children and babies with an ear infection may also:
- rub or pull their ear
- not react to some sounds
- be irritable or restless
- be off their food
- keep losing their balance
Most ear infections clear up within 3 days, although sometimes symptoms can last up to a week.
|Inner ear infection
|Middle ear infection
|Outer ear infection
|Can affect both children and adults
|Usually affects children
|Usually affects adults aged 45 to 75
|Caused by viral or bacterial infections
|Caused by viruses like colds and flu
|Caused by something irritating the ear canal, such as eczema, water or wearing earplugs
|Affects parts of the inner ear like the labyrinth and vestibular system, and can lead to labyrinthitis
|Affects the eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear to the back of the nose
|Affects the ear canal
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Should My Child See Her Pediatrician For An Ear Infection
In some cases with older babies and toddlers, mild symptoms may go away on their own. But if your child is under 6 months old, has a high fever, severe pain, drainage or swelling in the ear, its time to call your pediatrician. However, your doctor wont necessarily prescribe antibiotics right away. Ear infections are caused by both bacteria and viruses, so antibiotics arent always the solution. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, there are several reasons why doctors dont prescribe antibiotics for every ear infection:
- Antibiotics dont work for ear infections caused by viruses.
- Antibiotics dont help the pain associated with ear infections
- Infections from both viruses and bacteria often disappear without antibiotics in a few days, especially in children over two years old.
- Physicians are keenly aware that the overprescription of antibiotics makes vital medicines less effective, so we work hard to use them only when truly necessary. In many cases, your doctor will watch the infection for a few days to see if it goes away on its own.
Symptoms Of Ear Infections
- The main symptom is an earache.
- Younger children will cry, act fussy or have trouble sleeping because of pain.
- About 50% of children with an ear infection will have a fever.
- Complication: In 5% to 10% of children, the eardrum will develop a small tear. This is from the pressure in the middle ear. The ear then drains cloudy fluid or pus. This small hole most often heals over in 2 or 3 days.
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How Can I Prevent My Child From Getting An Ear Infection
- Wash your childs hands and your own often to reduce the chance of catching a cold.
- Breastfeed your baby.
- Avoid bottle-feeding your baby when they are lying down. Never put your baby to bed with a bottle.
- Transition your baby from a bottle to a cup by 1 year of age.
- Dont use a pacifier too often.
- Dont smoke, and keep your child away from any secondhand smoke. Exposure to smoke can increase the risk of ear infections.
- Ensure your child gets the pneumococcal vaccine .
- Ensure your child gets a flu shot every year.
What Causes Middle Ear Infections
Most middle ear infections occur when an infection such as a cold, leads to a build-up of mucus in the middle ear and causes the Eustachian tube to become swollen or blocked.
This mean mucus can’t drain away properly, making it easier for an infection to spread into the middle ear.
An enlarged adenoid can also block the Eustachian tube. The adenoid can be removed if it causes persistent or frequent ear infections. Read more about removing adenoids.
Younger children are particularly vulnerable to middle ear infections as:
- the Eustachian tube is smaller in children than in adults
- a child’s adenoids are relatively much larger than an adults
Certain conditions can also increase the risk of middle ear infections, including:
- having a cleft palate a type of birth defect where a child has a split in the roof of their mouth
- having Down’s syndrome a genetic condition that typically causes some level of learning disability and a characteristic range of physical features
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How Can An Ear Infection Be Prevented
The simplest preventive measures include the following:
- Breastfeed an infant during the first 12 months of life
- For bottle-fed infants, never prop the bottle and wean off the bottle by 12 months
- Do not smoke around the baby, particularly in the household or the car
- Do not smoke during pregnancy
- Consider a private sitter or a smaller daycare, instead of a high volume daycare
- Avoid the introduction of solid foods in the first four months of life
- Administer the flu vaccine annually after six months of age
- Consider allergen avoidance and allergy shots in older children with chronic fluid
- Administer Prevnar vaccine to infants less than 24 months of age
More controversial preventive measures include the following:
- Avoid the pacifier
- Give the pneumococcal vaccine to infants and children older than 24 months who are unvaccinated with Prevnar and still getting recurrent ear infections
Ineffective measures include the following:
- Covering a child’s head with a hat during the winter
- Using decongestants and antihistamines to “prevent” ear infections
- Chiropractic manipulation
Can Middle Ear Infections Be Prevented
It’s not possible to prevent middle ear infections, but there are some things you can do that may reduce your child’s risk of developing the condition. These include:
- make sure your child is up-to-date with their routine vaccinations particularly the pneumococcal vaccine and the DTaP/IPV/Hib vaccine
- avoid exposing your child to smoky environments
- don’t give your child a dummy once they’re older than six to 12 months old
- don’t feed your child while they’re lying flat on their back
- if possible, feed your baby with breast milk rather than formula milk
Avoiding contact with other children who are unwell may also help reduce your child’s chances of catching an infection that could lead to a middle ear infection.
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When To Seek Medical Advice
Most cases of otitis media pass within a few days, so there’s usually no need to see your GP.
However, see your GP if you or your child have:
- symptoms showing no sign of improvement after two or three days
- a lot of pain
- a discharge of pus or fluid from the ear some people develop a persistent and painless ear discharge that lasts for many months, known as chronic suppurative otitis media
- an underlying health condition, such as cystic fibrosis or congenital heart disease, which could make complications more likely
Read more about diagnosing middle ear infections
Who Gets An Ear Infection
At the highest risk for ear infections include those children who:
- Are male
- Have a strong family history of otitis media
- Were not breastfed during the first 12 months of life and/or
- Reside in a smoking household.
Children with a cleft palate or HIV have particularly severe problems with recurrent ear infections.
Age affects the rate of acute otitis media, with a dramatic decline in frequency in children older than three years. However, some children with a history of ventilating tubes or frequent recurrent otitis media, severe allergies, or large adenoids may still be plagued with ear problems.
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When To Contact A Doctor
If you think you are experiencing ear infection symptoms, and the symptoms last longer than one or two days, you should consult a doctor. Sometimes ear infections do resolve on their own after a couple of days, but if the pain worsens or lingers, you should seek medical attention.
Additionally, if you have fluid draining from your ear or your hearing is impaired by any of the symptoms listed above, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. If you think you have symptoms of labyrinthitis then it is best to contact a doctor right away.
If properly treated, ear infections will not lead to any other complications. If left untreated, however, your ear infection can, in rare cases, pose more serious health issues, including:
- Mastoiditis a rare inflammation of a bone that is adjacent to the ear
- Permanent hearing loss
- Eardrum perforation
- Facial nerve paralysis
- Occasionally, Menieres disease a disease that manifests as symptoms of vertigo, hearing loss, pressure in the ears and ringing in the ears.
Letting an ear infection go on without treatment can lead to permanent hearing loss and possible spread of the infection to other parts of your head. If you suspect you might have an ear infection, consult with your doctor or visit an urgent care center to get treatment as soon as possible.
Types Of Ear Infections
The most common type of ear infection is called acute otitis media .
AOM is more common in children because they have smaller eustachian tubes. Located between the middle ear and upper throat, these tubes are responsible for fluid drainage.
If this fluid doesnt drain, a buildup and infection may occur. Fluid trapped in the middle ear behind your eardrum may also cause:
Other common infections
Other common types of ear infections include:
- Otitis media with effusion . The infection has cleared up, but fluid may still be stuck in the middle ear.
- Chronic otitis media with effusion . Fluid continues to build up on a recurring basis despite the lack of infection. This chronic condition can lead to serious side effects, such as hearing loss .
- Swimmers ear : occurs in the outer ear when water becomes trapped and promotes bacterial growth in the ear canal.
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How Do Ear Infection Antibiotics Work
Ear infections are no fun for anyone.
Since most ear infections are caused by bacteria, its typically best to treat individual cases with antibiotics.
But antibiotic treatment isnt appropriate for every ear infection. There are a variety of factors to consider, including:
- your age
Recurring ear infections may also require a different approach.
If youre considering ear infection antibiotics for yourself or a loved one, learn more about how these medications work and how they can be both helpful and possibly harmful.
Ear infections are most prevalent in young children. Theyre often the byproducts of upper respiratory infections.
You or your child might experience other symptoms before the ear infection, including:
If an upper respiratory infection is caused by bacteria, then its possible to have an ear infection at the same time.
An ear infection occurs when bacteria gets trapped in your middle ear. Bacteria known as Hemophilus influenza and Streptococcus pneumoniae are the most common bacterial culprits.
But an ear infection may still occur if you have a viral respiratory illness. As you recover, its possible for bacteria to travel to your middle ear and become trapped, leading to a secondary infection in your ears.
Why Do Children Get Many More Ear Infections Than Adults Will My Child Always Get Ear Infections
Children are more likely than adults to get ear infections for these reasons:
- The eustachian tubes in young children are shorter and more horizontal. This shape encourages fluid to gather behind the eardrum.
- The immune system of children, which in the bodys infection-fighting system, is still developing.
- The adenoids in children are relatively larger than they are in adults. The adenoids are the small pads of tissue above the throat and behind the nose and near the eustachian tubes. As they swell to fight infection, they may block the normal ear drainage from the eustachian tube into the throat. This blockage of fluid can lead to a middle ear infection.
Most children stop getting ear infections by age 8.
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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.
What Happens If A Uti Goes Untreated For A Week
The main danger associated with untreated UTIs is that the infection may spread from the bladder to one or both kidneys. When bacteria attack the kidneys, they can cause damage that will permanently reduce kidney function. In people who already have kidney problems, this can raise the risk of kidney failure.
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Is A Contagious Infection Of The Upper Respiratory Tract
An acute URI is a contagious infection of your upper respiratory tract. Your upper respiratory tract includes the nose, throat, pharynx, larynx, and bronchi. Without a doubt, the common cold is the most well-known URI. Other types of URIs include sinusitis, pharyngitis, epiglottitis, and tracheobronchitis.
How Common Is Acute Otitis Media
Acute otitis media is predominantly an infection of young children, primarily occurring in the first three years of life. Children in the 1990s experience 30% more episodes of acute otitis media as compared with children in the 1970s, probably as a consequence of high rates of day care. Currently, acute otitis media accounts for one-fourth of all pediatric office visits in the first three years.
Nearly 94% of children will experience at least one ear infection in the first three years of life, with an average of about three episodes in the first and second years, and one and one-half episodes in the third year. As many as 5% to 8% of children will undergo the placement of ventilating tubes in their first 24 months of life. Much of this is related to the high rate of daycare attendance in the United States, with increased exposure to infectious agents.
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What Causes An Ear Infection
Ear infections are caused by bacteria and viruses. Many times, an ear infection begins after a cold or other respiratory infection. The bacteria or virus travel into the middle ear through the eustachian tube . This tube connects the middle ear to the back of the throat. The bacteria or virus can also cause the eustachian tube to swell. This swelling can cause the tube to become blocked, which keeps normally produced fluids to build up in the middle ear instead of being able to be drained away.
Adding to the problem is that the eustachian tube is shorter and has less of a slope in children than in adults. This physical difference makes these tubes easier to become clogged and more difficult to drain. The trapped fluid can become infected by a virus or bacteria, causing pain.
Medical terminology and related conditions
Because your healthcare provider may use these terms, its important to have a basic understanding of them:
Frequently Asked Questions About Outer Ear Infections
Youll need to lie down while you put ear drops in, and it can help to have someone else put them in for you.
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