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How To Check If Your Baby Has An Ear Infection

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Does My Baby Have An Ear Infection

How to tell if your baby is teething or has an ear infection

Take this quick quiz to find out just how much you know about ear infections.

Q. Are all children at risk for ear infections?

A. Ear infections are common in kids, especially babies between ages 6 and 18 months. One reason may be simple anatomy. The tube that drains fluid from inside each ear is much shorter in children than in adults.

In children, ear infections often follow a cold virus. One study in Pediatrics found that 30 percent of upper respiratory infections in kids younger than age 3 led to an ear infection. Other factors, such as being around smokers, can raise the risk for ear infection.

Q. How do I know if my baby has an ear infection?

A. Young ones may cry and tug at their ears. Theyll seem irritable and wont feel like eating or sleeping. They also may have a fever.

Q. Does my little one need antibiotics?

A. It depends on your childs age. Most ear infections in older babies and kids go away after a week or two without antibiotics. Taking these medicines when they arent needed can make it harder for your child to fight off future infections.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends antibiotics for babies younger than 6 months with ear infections. If your child is between 6 and 24 months and the ear infection isnt serious, antibiotics may offer little benefit. After age 2, an antibiotic is recommended only for a severe ear infection.

Online Medical Reviewer: Desrosiers, Florence MD

Date Last Reviewed: 4/2/2010

How Do I Know If My Child Has An Ear Infection

Older children will usually complain of an earache. While younger children might not be able to say they have an earache, they may:

  • have an unexplained fever,
  • tug or pull at their ears, or
  • have trouble hearing quiet sounds.

Some children with an ear infection may also have fluid draining from the ear.

How Common Are Ear Infections In Babies And Toddlers

Most children get an ear infection in their first few years of life, most frequently between 6 months and 3 years of age. Moreover, 66 percent of children have had an ear infection by the time they turn 2 years old.

Ear infections in young children are also more common during the cold and flu season of winter and early spring.

Luckily, recurrent ear infections tend to drop off for most children between the ages of 4 and 6 years old. However, that doesnât mean they wonât crop up again since anyone, including adults, can get an ear infection.

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How To Use An Otoscope

Once you find the right size of specula, you must clean it and fit it well to the viewing end of this device. After this, switch on the instruments light.

If your kid is older than 12 months, you must pull out the ear gently to straighten the ear canal. This will make it much easier to view inside the ear.

Now, hold the handle of the otoscope with your finger outstretched. When you place the instrument into the ear canal, you have to move the specula easily into the childs ear. But make sure you dont go too far inside the ear canal as it may hurt your child.

The ear canal is extremely sensitive. Hence, avoid putting too much pressure on the instrument. Gently move the otoscope until you are able to view the eardrum. Angle the viewing piece correctly slightly towards the nose of your child so that it follows the normal angle of the canal.

How To Tell If Your Baby Has An Ear Infection Because Nothing’s Worse Than A Baby In Pain

Seven Signs Your Baby Has an Ear Infection

When it comes to runny noses, spit up, and diaper rashes, your eyes tell you what you need to know. Whether you’re a first time parent or a certified professional, the invisible things that ail your baby can be a little bit more difficult to diagnose. One of the worst offenders? Ear infections. Figuring out how to tell if your baby has an ear infection is one of the bigger mysteries of parenting. Symptoms of ear infections aren’t always straightforward, and can start as something as little as having a fussy baby.

In an interview with WebMD, Atlanta pediatrician and editor of American Academy of Pediatrics Baby & Child Health Dr. Jennifer Shu said that the most common cause of ear infections is the common cold. “An ear infection happens when you get infected fluid or pus behind the eardrum,” Shu told the website. Shu also said that children under three years of age are the most susceptible to ear infections, because they don’t have the strongest immune systems. “They haven’t been exposed to many of these germs before, so it takes them a little longer to fight them off,” Shu said. And while fevers can come with ear infections, they don’t always appear as a symptom. Ear drainage, sleepless nights, and loss of appetite are symptoms that may appear with an ear infection. But according to Shu, for many children, it’s just manifests as fussiness and crying more than usual.

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How Do You Treat An Ear Infection In Children

In some instances, an ear infection in children might go away on its own. Many doctors will prescribe an antibiotic to treat an ear infection, which usually needs to be taken for 7 to 10 days. To help with ear pain or fever, a doctor might also recommend over-the-counter pain relievers or ear drops.

Ear infections are often caused by bacteria. However, some ear infections are caused by viruses, which cannot be treated with antibiotics.

Infections Inside The Ear

Antibiotics are not usually offered because infections inside the ear often clear up on their own and antibiotics make little difference to symptoms, including pain.

Antibiotics might be prescribed if:

  • an ear infection does not start to get better after 3 days
  • you or your child has any fluid coming out of the ear
  • you or your child has an illness that means there’s a risk of complications, such as cystic fibrosis

They may also be prescribed if your child is less than 2 years old and has an infection in both ears.

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S To Prevent Ear Infections

If your child has had several ear infections already, or you simply wish to lower their risk of getting ear infections in the first place, here are some ways to prevent or at least lessen the frequency and severity of ear infections:

1. Breastfeeding

There is no doubt whatsoever in the medical literature that prolonged breastfeeding lowers your childs chances of getting ear infections.

2. Daycare setting

Continuous exposure to other children increases the risk that your child will catch more colds, and consequently more ear infections. Crowded daycare settings are a set up for germ sharing. If possible, switch your child to a small, home daycare setting. This will lower the risk.

3. Control allergies

If you think allergies are contributing to your childs runny nose and, consequently, ear infections, click on allergies to find out more about how to minimize your childs allergies.

4. Feed your baby upright

Lying down while bottle-feeding can cause the milk to irritate the Eustachian tube which can contribute to ear infections.

5. Keep the nose clear

When a runny nose and cold start, do your best to keep the nose clear by using steam, saline nose drops and suctioning. Also, try Xlear® nasal spray which contains xylitol that can help prevent viruses and bacteria from attaching in your childs nose. See colds for more info on clearing the nose.

6. Cigarette smoke

7. Echinacea

This is an herb that can safely and effectively boost the immune system. Read for more information.

Can I Do Anything To Prevent Ear Infections In My Child

Caring for Your Child’s Ear Infection

It is not easy to prevent ear infections, but the following may help reduce the risk:

  • making sure your childs 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 childs room warm and dry
  • making sure your child has all their immunisations on time

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How To Treat Ear Infections At Home

Whether your baby is prescribed antibiotics or not, you will want to decrease your babys pain and discomfort as they recover from an ear infection.

Heres what you can do:

  • Depending on your babys age, you can give your baby pain relieving medication such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Again, check with your doctor on what pain reliever is appropriate for your baby as well as dosage. Never give your baby aspirin, as this can cause a dangerous condition called Reye’s syndrome.
  • In addition, your doctor may recommend ear drops that reduce pain as well as simple at-home remedies like warm washcloths or heating pads for comfort.

Fluid Buildup And Hearing Problems

Fluid behind the eardrum after an ear infection is normal. And in most children, the fluid clears up within 3 months without treatment. If your child has fluid buildup without infection, you may try watchful waiting.

Have your child’s hearing tested if the fluid lasts longer than 3 months. If hearing is normal, you may choose to keep watching your child without treatment.

If a child has fluid behind the eardrum for more than 3 months and has significant hearing problems, then treatment is needed. Sometimes short-term hearing loss occurs, which is especially a concern in children ages 2 and younger. Normal hearing is very important when young children are learning to talk.

If your child is younger than 2, your doctor may not wait 3 months to start treatment. Hearing problems at this age could affect your child’s speaking ability. This is also why children in this age group are closely watched when they have ear infections.

If there is a hearing problem, your doctor may also prescribe antibiotics to keep the fluid in the ear from getting infected. The doctor might also suggest placing tubes in the ears to drain the fluid and improve hearing.

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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.

What Will Happen At The Doctors Office

How to know if your child has an ear infection

If your doctor thinks your baby may have an ear infection, they will certainly examine your babys ear canal, but they will also likely look at other possible symptoms.

Heres what will happen during the visit:

  • Your doctor will ask you what viral or infection symptoms your baby has had recently.
  • Your doctor will ask you what symptoms your baby has been experiencing, and will check your babys vital signs.
  • Your doctor will take your babys temperature.
  • Your doctor will listen to your babys lungs for signs of respiratory distress.
  • Your doctor will examine the inside of your babys ears.

Heres what an examination of your babys ear canals may entail:

  • Your doctor will view your babys middle ear using an instrument called an otoscope. They will be looking for signs of redness and inflammation. Babies usually dont like this, but the procedure is not painful.
  • If your doctor wants to check for fluid buildup in the ear, they will use a pneumatic otoscope. This will blow a small amount of air inside your babys ear. This is not harmful or painful, but again, your baby may not like it very much.
  • If neither of these procedures offer your doctor a definite answer, they may use a tympanometer to examine your babys ear. This uses air pressures and sound tones to measure the pressure inside your babys ear.

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Questions To Ask Your Doctor

  • How can I keep my child comfortable at night with the pain of an ear infection?
  • Is there drainage with an ear infection?
  • What is the difference between an ear infection and swimmers ear?
  • Is my child a candidate for ear tubes?
  • What are the risks and benefits of surgically inserting tubes inside my childs middle ear?
  • Should my child get regular hearing tests if they have frequent ear infections?

When Should You Call Your Doctor

  • Your child has sudden hearing loss, severe pain, or dizziness.
  • Your child seems to be very sick with symptoms such as a high fever and stiff neck.
  • You notice redness, swelling, or pain behind or around your child’s ear, especially if your child doesn’t move the muscles on that side of his or her face.
  • You can’t quiet your child who has a severe earache by using home treatment over several hours.
  • Your baby pulls or rubs his or her ear and appears to be in pain .
  • Your child’s ear pain increases even with treatment.
  • Your child has a fever of 38.3°C or higher with other signs of ear infection.
  • You suspect that your child’s eardrum has burst, or fluid that looks like pus or blood is draining from the ear.
  • Your child has an object stuck in his or her ear.
  • Your child with an ear infection continues to have symptoms after 48 hours of treatment with an antibiotic.
  • Your child with an ear tube develops an earache or has drainage from his or her ear.

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Main Symptoms Of Ear Infections In Children

Your child may have 2 or more of these symptoms:

  • Cold symptoms keep in mind that ear infections are almost always preceded by a cold. Often a clear runny nose will turn yellow or green before an ear infection sets in.
  • Fussiness during the day or night
  • Complaining of ear pain or hearing loss
  • Night-waking more frequently
  • Fever usually low grade may not have a fever
  • Sudden increase in fussiness during a cold
  • Ear drainage if you see blood or pus draining out of the ear, then it is probably an infection with a ruptured eardrum. DONT WORRY! These almost always heal just fine, and once the eardrum ruptures the pain subsides.
  • How Does A Doctor Diagnose A Middle Ear Infection

    How to manage your childs 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.

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    How Do You Know If Your Baby Has Ear Infection

    Your little one may develop an ear infection when a virus or bacteria infect and trap fluid behind the eardrum. This extra fluid causes pain and bulging of the eardrum. Common signs that your baby has an ear infection include crying, irritability, tugging at the ear, difficulty feeding, ear drainage, and fever.

    Middle Ear Fluid Buildup

    Most children who have ear infections still have some fluid behind the eardrum a few weeks after the infection is gone. For some children, the fluid clears in about a month. And a few children still have fluid buildup several months after an ear infection clears. This fluid buildup in the ear is called otitis media with effusion. Hearing problems can result, because the fluid affects how the middle ear works. Usually, infection does not occur.

    Otitis media with fluid buildup may occur even if a child has not had an obvious ear infection or upper respiratory infection. In these cases, something else has caused eustachian tube blockage.

    In rare cases, complications can arise from middle ear infection or fluid buildup. Examples include hearing loss and ruptured eardrum.

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    Tips To Use Otoscopes Effectively And Easily

    There are a few things that you must consider while using an otoscope.

  • Whether you are using it for a kid or an adult, the ear is extremely sensitive. Hence, avoid being rough.
  • When you are using otoscope for children then they may tend to turn heads or wriggle. So you have to be attentive so that you dont hurt the ear.
  • It is best to pre-inform your child about what you are doing. Also, let her tell you if it is hurting you.
  • The ear canal is not straight. Therefore, you have to move the outer ear as well as the otoscope a few times to line it precisely and view inside. It can be achieved only with practice.
  • Before you move ahead using the otoscope on a child, you must practice it first using on a healthy adult.
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