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How To Tell If Child Has Ear Infection

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Signs Of An Ear Infection

How do I know if my child has an ear infection?

Ear infections are common in babies, and it is helpful to know the classic signs to watch out for:

  • Crying and irritability: Your babys ear is most likely painful, so expect crying and irritability. You may notice more crying when your baby lies down. This is because the ear pressure increases with lying down, leading to an increase in pain and discomfort during an ear infection.
  • Tugging at the ear: Because your baby is too young to tell you that their ear hurts, look for signs such as tugging on the affected ear.
  • Difficulty feeding: The act of sucking and swallowing causes changes in ear pressure and is usually uncomfortable during an ear infection. You may notice that your baby is hungry and seems eager to eat, but stops right away.
  • Trouble sleeping: Expect a restless night or two when your baby has an ear infection. Because lying down is painful, your little one will probably wake throughout the night.
  • Ear drainage: Its possible for your baby to develop ear drainage with an ear infection. The drainage will appear different than normal ear wax, which is orange-yellow or reddish-brown. Infected drainage may appear white, green, yellow, or blood-tinged and have a foul odor.
  • Fever: Its estimated that about 50% of babies and children will develop a fever with an ear infection.

Key Points To Remember About Ear Infections

If you think your child has an ear infection, take them to your family doctor.

  • ear infections are very common in young children
  • they can cause pain, and often fever
  • if you think your child has an ear infection, take them to your family doctor
  • pain relief is important
  • antibiotics are often not needed
  • always take your child to your family doctor for an ear check 4 to 6 weeks after an ear infection, to make sure the ear fluid has gone
  • most children outgrow ear infections and will have perfect, undamaged ears and normal hearing

Are Ear Infections Contagious

No, an ear infection itself is not contagious. However, the cold or illness that led to it could be. So while your child cant catch an ear infection from a friend at day care, he can catch the cold or flu virus that results in an ear infection.

To help prevent this, teach your child proper hygiene, such as washing hands frequently and sneezing or coughing into the crook of his arm or a tissue that is immediately thrown away. Also make sure hes up-to-date on his vaccinations.

If your child already has an ear infection, he can go back to school or day care after his fever clears up and he’s no longer in pain.

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How Do Doctors Screen For An Ear Infection

Our team of audiology experts will perform an inner ear exam using an otoscope. Early screening could identify inner ear abnormalities, such as redness, air bubbles, thick fluid build-up or drainage, and perforations . Our specialists at Cross Timbers ENT located in Arlington, Midlothian, or Mansfield, TX may perform additional tests, including fluid cultures to identify potential bacterial infections, CT scans to assess infection beyond the middle ear, and hearing exams.

What Is A Middle Ear Infection

Fun With Otoscopes

Otitis media is when the air-filled space behind the eardrum, containing the tiny vibrating bones of the ear, becomes infected by bacteria or a virus. Children often get a middle ear infection with another illness, such as cold, flu or allergies. This can be due to congestion and swelling in the nasal passages, throat and eustachian tubes .

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Does My Child Need Antibiotics

Many ear infections will get better without antibiotics. If your child’s ear infection is mild, your doctor might want you to wait a few days to see if the infection gets better on its own. If your child does not feel better after two or three days, your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic. Children six months or younger and children with very bad ear infections will be given antibiotics right away.

How To Treat Ear Infection In Children

Treatment occurs after diagnosing. An ENT doctor does a physical exam to examine the ear using an otoscope. In case they notice any infection, they develop a treatment plan. If the child has an infection, an ear infection specialist will prescribe antibiotics, and, in most cases, Amoxycillin will clear it. Antibiotics are only used if a child gets recurrent ear infections, but not every child needs them.

In most cases, the infection will clear out on its own, and the doctor may prescribe medicine for the pain. Antibiotics do not treat viral ear infections and may be associated with different side effects and resistance.

The doctor first observes how the child is recovering before administering antibiotics, and the parent may be asked to return for follow-up. If there is no improvement after some hours, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends starting the child on antibiotics.

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Why Do Children Get Ear Infections More Often Than Adults

Ear infections are more common in children for a few reasons. Theyre young, so their immune systems are still developing. Their immune systems will grow stronger over time as they get exposed to new viruses and bacteria.

Also, the eustachian tubes are smaller in children. These tubes connect the middle ear to the back of the throat. Its easier for them to become blocked by mucous from a cold or other infection. As a result, fluid may not be able to drain out of their ears properly.

Signs It’s An Ear Infection

ASK UNMC! How can I tell if my child has 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:

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Are There Any Risks Associated With Using Otoscopes

The good thing is that there is a very few risks associated with an ear examination. The most important thing that you must take into account is to always change the tip of the otoscope or clean it properly after the examination. Using a dirty or already used tip can spread infection from one ear to the other.

Treatment For Middle Ear Infection

Symptoms of middle ear infection usually improve by themselves within 24-48 hours, so antibiotics arent often needed.

You can give your child paracetamol in recommended doses to help with pain. Your GP might suggest some anaesthetic ear drops if your child has severe pain.

If your child still has pain and is unwell after 48 hours, is particularly unwell or is less than 12 months old, your GP might prescribe a short course of antibiotics, usually penicillin.

Most children improve after a few days of antibiotic treatment, but always make sure your child finishes the whole treatment, even if she seems better. Stopping too soon could make the infection come back. Often your GP will want to see your child again when your child has finished the treatment, to make sure the infection has cleared up.

Decongestants, antihistamines and corticosteroids dont work as a treatment for middle ear infections.

Putting cotton wool in your childs ear or cleaning discharge with a cotton bud can damage the ear. It isnt recommended.

Recurrent ear infections Some children with recurrent ear infections or glue ear might need a long course of antibiotics.

Glue ear generally improves within three months. Your GP will need to monitor your child during this time to check that its getting better.

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Ear Infections: Most Common Cause

  • Definition. An infection of the middle ear . Viral ear infections are more common than bacterial ones.
  • Symptoms. 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.
  • Diagnosis. A doctor can diagnose a bacterial ear infection by looking at the eardrum. It will be bulging and have pus behind it. For viral ear infections, the eardrum will be red but not bulging.
  • Age Range. Ear infections peak at age 6 months to 2 years. They are a common problem until age 8. The onset of ear infections is often on day 3 of a cold.
  • Frequency. 90% of children have at least 1 ear infection. Frequent ear infections occur in 20% of children. Ear infections are the most common bacterial infection of young children.
  • Complication of Bacterial Ear Infections. 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.
  • Treatment. Bacterial ear infections need an oral antibiotic. Viral ear infections get better on their own. They need pain medicine and supportive care.

What Is An Ear Infection And What Causes It

Signs of Ear Infection in Toddler

The ear is made up of three parts: the outer, the middle and the inner ear. The middle ear is the space just behind the eardrum. Sometimes, excess fluid can pool in this space and lead to infection.

Acute middle ear infections are painful infections that last a few days. They are often caused by the same viruses that cause the common cold, or by bacteria. The distinction between viral and bacterial causes is important because only bacterial causes respond to antibiotic treatment and some bacterial infections get better even without antibiotics.

Sometimes with an infection, the eardrum can rupture and have a hole that remains. When fluid from the infection fails to clear, or a hole is present, doctors call this a chronic middle ear infection.

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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.

What Symptoms Should Parents Look For

Acute ear infections can be quite painful. Common symptoms include fever, irritability, trouble sleeping and eating, and sometimes pus or bloody fluid leaking from the ear. Very young children who cannot talk may pull or pick at their ears, head bang, or shake their head repeatedly.

Chronic ear infection symptoms may be more difficult for parents to spot. Children may complain of hearing loss, a sensation of pressure in their ears, and a loss of balance. Sometimes a discharge will come from the ear. There may be a delay in the development of speech and language.

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Can Ear Infections Be Prevented

Currently, the best way to prevent ear infections is to reduce the risk factors associated with them. Here are some things you might want to do to lower your childs risk for ear infections.

  • Vaccinate your child against the flu. Make sure your child gets the influenza, or flu, vaccine every year.
  • It is recommended that you vaccinate your child with the 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine . The PCV13 protects against more types of infection-causing bacteria than the previous vaccine, the PCV7. If your child already has begun PCV7 vaccination, consult your physician about how to transition to PCV13. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children under age 2 be vaccinated, starting at 2 months of age. Studies have shown that vaccinated children get far fewer ear infections than children who arent vaccinated. The vaccine is strongly recommended for children in daycare.
  • Wash hands frequently. Washing hands prevents the spread of germs and can help keep your child from catching a cold or the flu.
  • Avoid exposing your baby to cigarette smoke. Studies have shown that babies who are around smokers have more ear infections.
  • Never put your baby down for a nap, or for the night, with a bottle.
  • Dont allow sick children to spend time together. As much as possible, limit your childs exposure to other children when your child or your childs playmates are sick.

S To Prevent Ear Infections

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

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.

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How To Use Otoscopes To Check Your Child For Ear Infections

Does your child suffer from ear infections often? You might be visiting your doctor often and spending time and money. But the good news is that you can conduct an at-home inspection to identify ear infections in your child. You can practice at home inspection, but make sure you avoid it if your childs ear has pus or blood is coming from the ear or if the skin near the ear hole is swollen.

If your childs condition is not severe then you can perform at home inspection using an otoscope. In this post, we will guide you on how to properly use an otoscope to examine your child for ear infections at home.

Do Ear Infections Go Away On Their Own

Oftentimes, ear infections go away on their own within 2 or 3 days. This is why pediatricians sometimes take a wait-and-see approach for, say, 48 to 72 hours particulaly for children aged 2 and older who have milder ear infections.

Not every childhood ear infection warrants antibiotics, since some are caused by viruses that wont respond to antibiotics, and giving your child too many antibiotics can put him at risk for becoming resistant to these potent drugs when theyre really needed.

If your baby is 6 months or younger and its determined to be acute otitis media, however, your doctor will probably prescribe a course of antibiotics. Pediatricians may also prescribe antibiotics for children aged 6 months to 2 years who are having more severe symptoms. Your doctor may also start your child on antibiotics if his symptoms haven’t gotten better within two to three days.

Even if your doctor has suggested a wait-and-see approach for past ear infections, that may not be what your child needs for this one. So if you suspect your child has an ear infection, call your pediatrician to get your child’s ears examined.

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Crying Or Fussing More Frequently

It sounds a little obvious, but ear infections cause pain and discomfort. Therefore, your child is likely to cry more often than they would usually, or otherwise be more irritable or grumpy.

Of course, there can be myriad reasons for crying in a child, but particularly when combined with other symptoms, it can be a sign of an ear infection.

How Is An Ear Infection Diagnosed

How To Tell If Baby Has Ear Infection

Ear exam

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.

Other checks

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.

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