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.
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.”
If Needed Give Pain Medication
If the baby is more than 6 months old, you can give pain relievers, such as paracetamol to reduce ear pain. However, you should consult a doctor first before giving any medicine to the baby.
Instead, avoid giving cough and cold medicines that contain antihistamines, decongestants and aspirin pain relievers, because they can cause dangerous side effects for the baby. In addition, avoid also giving antibiotics without the advice of a doctor.
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How Long Will It Take My Child To Get Better
Your child should start feeling better within a few days after visiting the doctor. If its been several days and your child still seems sick, call your doctor. Your child might need a different antibiotic. Once the infection clears, fluid may still remain in the middle ear but usually disappears within three to six weeks.
Baby Ear Infection And Flying
Many parents have reservations about travelling by air when a baby has an ear infection. It is understandable since traveling by air can cause fluctuations in the ear-nasal air pressure. It occurs due to the difference between the air pressure inside the aircraft and the middle ear . This pressure difference causes the eustachian tube to open widely to equalization the pressure. However, it can be a painful process for babies suffering from ear infection.
If the baby has a serious ear infection, then flying could rupture eardrum due to pressure imbalances. However, it seldom happens and you can give your baby something to drink once the plane reaches a stable high altitude and the cabin pressure starts dropping. You can know the drop in the pressure as the ears make clicking sound while swallowing. Swallowing is a process that causes eustachian tubes to open. Feeding your baby in flight can help ease the pressure before the natural onset of high pressure inside the middle ear.
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What Causes Ear Infections In Babies
Ear infections, medically known as acute otitis media, are infections of the middle part of the ear. They are caused by either a viral infection or a bacterial infection. These infections cause fluid to build up in the middle ear, as well as inflammation. In some cases, the eustachian tubes show signs of infection as well.
Adults can get ear infections, too, but babies and young children are most prone to them, especially children under the age of three. Five out of six children will have had an ear infection by the time they turn three,and 25% of children will experience repeat ear infections.
The reason babies and young children are more prone to ear infections include:
- Babies ear passages are different than adults: they are shorter, narrower, and more horizontal in orientation
- Babies are more likely to get colds and other viruses, which make them more prone to ear infections
- Babies immune systems are less developed than adults, so their reactions to virus are usually more intenseleading to complications such as ear infections
Early Signs Of Infection
The symptoms of ear infections usually come on suddenly and are first experienced as discomfort, pressure, and pain. Of course, your baby cant describe what they are feeling, which makes it hard to know whats wrong.
At first, your baby may just generally be more fussy and inconsolable. Soon after, you may notice your baby tugging on their ear, or having trouble sleeping. Lying down often causes the pressure and pain in the ear to worsen, so you may notice that your baby cant sleep for very long stretches during this time. They may also have trouble breastfeeding or bottle feeding, as suckling and swallowing can also sometimes worsen their pain.
As the ear infection progresses, they may develop a fever or experience drainage from their ears.
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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 Medications Are Used To Treat Baby Ear Infections
Traditionally, ear infections were treated with antibiotics like amoxicillin. However, in more recent years, doctors have adopted a wait and see approach to prescribing antibiotics, at least for kids 2 years old and up. Most of the time, babies under 2 need an antibiotic
If your baby is prescribed an antibiotic, its important to give it for the full prescription course, usually 7 to 10 days. Its likely that your baby will start to feel better within a few days, but if you stop the medication before the course is done, you risk the infection returning.
Many pediatricians recommend giving your baby probiotics while they are taking antibiotics. In doing their jobs, antibiotics kill both good and bad bacteria, and the depletion of good bacteria can sometimes cause digestive discomfort. Probiotics can replenish the good bacteria your baby needs, and ease any digestive upset.
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What Will Happen At The Doctors Office
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.
Can Ear Infections Affect Hearing
Fluid buildup in the middle ear also blocks sound, which can lead to temporary hearing problems. Kids having a problem might:
- not respond to soft sounds
- need to turn up the TV or radio
- talk louder
- seem inattentive at school
In kids who have otitis media with effusion, the fluid behind the eardrum can block sound, so mild temporary hearing loss can happen, but might not be obvious.
A child whose eardrum has ruptured might have ringing or buzzing in the ear and not hear as well as usual.
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Symptoms Of Baby Ear Infections
Many parents will notice their baby tugging on their ear or simply acting fussy and assume that they have an ear infection.
However, while ear tugging and fussiness are sometimes signs of ear infections, they can also be the signs of teething, or just general crankiness.
Lets look at all the possible signs of baby ear infections, and how to know whether its time to contact your pediatrician.
Ear Infections In Babies And Toddlers
Ear infections in babies and toddlers are extremely common. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health, five out of six children will experience an ear infection before their third birthday.
“Many parents are concerned that an ear infection will affect their child’s hearing irreversiblyor that an ear infection will go undetected and untreated,” says David Tunkel, M.D., Johns Hopkins Medicine pediatric otolaryngologist . “The good news is that most ear infections go away on their own, and those that don’t are typically easy to treat.”
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Can I Treat An Ear Infection At Home
Swimmers ear home treatment
An outer ear infection may take several days to heal, but the pain usually is gone within one week. Moreover, the warmer the water, the higher the likelihood of getting swimmers ear, for example, people who swim in the summer are more likely to develop an outer ear infection than wintertime surfers.
Middle ear infection home treatment
Numerous studies have shown that viruses cause middle ear infections. Pain management for ear pain for two or three days will allow the bodys natural immune system to fight and cure the infection, much like the common cold. However, some people with middle ear infections may need to see a doctor or other health-care professional for medical treatment.
Inner ear infection and labyrinthitis home treatment
Inner ear infections and labyrinthitis usually treat inner ear infections in adults and children.
Antibiotics and outer ear infections
Antibiotics and middle ear infections
Antibiotics and inner ear infections
- Inner ear infections are rare, and usually need to be treated by an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist.
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.
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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.
Antibiotics For Baby Ear Infection
Many kids suffer from ear infections. These infections are generally present behind eardrum in middle ear. Bacterial infections are treated by doctors with antibiotics, which are strong drugs to kill bacteria.
Children, some babies and infants require antibiotics. However, using antibiotics very often may be harmful due to following reasons.
In majority of the cases, antibiotics may not be required as
- Ear infections caused due to viruses are not treated by them.
- Pain is not relieved by them.
- Usually, infections due to virus and in some cases bacteria get better on their own within 2-3 days, particularly in kids greater than two years of age.
In case you feel that your kid is suffering from infection of ear, then you should make a call to the office of your physician and describe their symptoms. Usually, you will be asked by your physician to wait for a couple of days before you take your kid to them.
The main symptom of infection of ear is pain, usually on day one. Or your kid may develop fever.
Start baby ear infection treatment by giving the kid an OTC pain reliever including:
Pain relievers form an important part of treatment and generally you may require only them to treat ear infection in your baby.
There Are Side Effects of Antibiotics
Overusing Antibiotics May Create Problems
When Is Baby Ear Infection Treatment with Antibiotics Required?
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How Is An Ear Infection Treated
Treatment of ear infections depends on age, severity of the infection, the nature of the infection and if fluid remains in the middle ear for a long period of time.
Your healthcare provider will recommend medications to relieve you or your childs pain and fever. If the ear infection is mild, depending on the age of the child, your healthcare provider may choose to wait a few days to see if the infection goes away on its own before prescribing an antibiotic.
Antibiotics may be prescribed if bacteria are thought to be the cause of the ear infection. Your healthcare provider may want to wait up to three days before prescribing antibiotics to see if a mild infection clears up on its own when the child is older. If your or your childs ear infection is severe, antibiotics might be started right away.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended when to prescribe antibiotics and when to consider waiting before prescribing based on your childs age, severity of their infection, and your childs temperature. Their recommendations are shown in the table below.
American Academy of Pediatrics Treatment Guide for Acute Otitis Media
|in one or both ears
|Mild for < 48 hours and temp < 102.2° F
|Treat with antibiotic OR observe. If observe, start antibiotics if child worsens or doesnt improve within 48 to 72 hours of start of symptoms
How To Prevent Ear Infections
Ear infections aren’t fun so it’s great to know that there are steps you can take to try and prevent them. Some ways you can prevent ear infections include:
- make sure your child is up to date with vaccinations
- avoid smoking around your child
- avoid using a dummy after your child is six months old
- don’t stick cotton wool buds or your fingers in your child’s ears
- insert earplugs into your child’s ears when they swim
- avoid getting water or shampoo into your child’s ears
- when bathing your child, pull a shower cap over the ears
- treat conditions that affect your child’s ears, such as eczema or an allergy to hearing aids
As always, remember to see your doctor if your child’s earache doesn’t improve or if you have any concerns.
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How Can I Tell If My Child Has An Ear Infection
Most ear infections happen to children before theyve learned how to talk. If your child isnt old enough to say My ear hurts, here are a few things to look for:
- Tugging or pulling at the ear
- Fussiness and crying
- Fluid draining from the ear
- Clumsiness or problems with balance
- Trouble hearing or responding to quiet sounds