Why Are Children More Likely Than Adults To Get Ear Infections
There are several reasons why children are more likely than adults to get ear infections.
Eustachian tubes are smaller and more level in children than they are in adults. This makes it difficult for fluid to drain out of the ear, even under normal conditions. If the eustachian tubes are swollen or blocked with mucus due to a cold or other respiratory illness, fluid may not be able to drain.
A childs immune system isnt as effective as an adults because its still developing. This makes it harder for children to fight infections.
As part of the immune system, the adenoids respond to bacteria passing through the nose and mouth. Sometimes bacteria get trapped in the adenoids, causing a chronic infection that can then pass on to the eustachian tubes and the middle ear.
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?
How Are Ear Infections Treated
Here are some antidotes to help you get through the night:
- or ibuprofen are effective pain relievers for ear pain. You can safely use both medications together if one alone is not enough. Click on each medication for the dosage.
- Warm compression apply a warm washcloth to the ear.
- Warm olive oil, vegetable oil, or garlic oil put several drops of one of these into the ear. MAKE SURE THE OIL ISNT TOO HOT.
- Anesthetic eardrops if the above remedies arent enough, these are available by prescription and can numb the eardrum to minimize the pain for an hour or two.
- WARNING if you see any liquid or pus draining out of the ear, DO NOT PUT ANY OF THE ABOVE DROPS INTO THE EAR. See below under ear drainage.
Xylitol and ear infections
Xylitol helps fight the bacteria causing the infections, much of which is in the nose.
- Chewing gum sweetened with xylitol has been shown to reduce some chronic ear infections .
- Xlear® is a nasal spray containing xylitol that was originally developed to prevent ear infections. Using it will help keep your childs nose clean and wash out many of the bacteria that cause these infections.
A seven-day course is the current recommendation unless your doctor feels a longer course is indicated. The whole issue of antibiotics can be confusing to parents, so here are some general guidelines to help you:
Avoid antibiotic resistance
When to use a stronger antibiotic
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How Ear Infections Resolve
There are two components of ear infections that need to resolve:
- Infection the antibiotics usually take care of the bacteria, which in turn resolves the fever and pain within a few days.
- Middle ear fluid it takes much longer for this to resolve, anywhere from a few days up to 3 months! The fluid slowly drains out through the Eustachian tube down into the nose. Taking repeated courses of antibiotics does not speed up this process, since the fluid is usually no longer infected with bacteria. Chronic nasal congestion or allergies can block the Eustachian tube and therefore prevent the ears from draining. Your childs hearing may be muffled until the fluid drains out. This is not permanent. See below how to prevent ear infections with tips on how to improve ear drainage.
Remember, since the runny nose and cough are usually caused by a cold virus and not bacteria, it may be 3 14 days before these symptoms resolve.
Ear No Evil: 3 Infections In 3 Months
Just as they are in humans, feline ear infections are not only uncomfortable and painful, they can also be a symptom of a more significant health issue. Ear infections do not spontaneously occur. Some event or underlying disease must precipitate it. The most common causes of ear infections include ear mites, wax build-up, foreign bodies and allergies.
Sake overcame 3 occurrences of ear infections at 7 months old. The first being 1 week after we brought her home from Playground Ragdolls. While ear infections in cats are not uncommon, having a kitten diagnosed soon after collection was definitely unusual. Not only was Sake’s ear infection challenging to treat, she was prone to recurring infections.
We noticed an excessive wax build-up in both ears during Sake’s post purchase check-up. It came as a surprise to both our doctor and myself. It couldn’t possibly be an ear infection, she just came home 2 days ago, or so I thought. An ear cytologic evaluation a week later revealed otherwise, Sake had an ongoing ear infection that required immediate medical attention.
We rushed Sake to the clinic the following day and opted for an alternative course of treatment, K9 Biotix Otic Gel, a leave-in medication that required a repeat administration 7 days later. The procedure put her under tremendous stress and it was heartbreaking to watch. I wanted so badly to hold my kitten and ease her pain.
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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
Can Ear Tubes Help
If your child experiences frequent or chronic ear infections, your pediatrician may discuss ear tubes with you. Ear tubes are tiny tubes that are surgically placed into your childs eardrums to drain fluid and prevent blockages. Ear tubes can provide immediate relief for little ones who regularly experience painful ear infections. Talk with your pediatrician and a pediatric ear, nose, and throat doctor to see whether ear tubes are right for your child.
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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|
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.
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I Have Ear Infection And Not Treated For 3 Months What To Do For Treatment
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When Should You Call A Healthcare Provider
If your child develops signs of an ear infection, such as tugging on the ear and crying while lying down, call your healthcare provider. Your pediatrician will most likely want to examine your childs ears and may prescribe an antibiotic right away. Seek emergency treatment if your childs temperature goes above 104 F or if they develop neck stiffness, muscle weakness, or bleeding.
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When Should I Return To My Healthcare Provider For A Follow
Your healthcare provider will let you know when you need to return for a follow-up visit. At that visit, you or your childs eardrum will be examined to be certain that the infection is going away. Your healthcare provider may also want to test you or your child’s hearing.
Follow-up exams are very important, especially if the infection has caused a hole in the eardrum.
How To Help Prevent Ear Infections
While most children get ear infections, there are a few things parents can do to try to prevent them:
- Breast feeding infants until at least age 6 months may help to lessen the number of ear infections.
- Keep your child away from cigarette smoke. Do not smoke or allow smoking in your home or car.
- Always hold your baby with his head up during feeding time . Babies should not be fed by propping the bottle or while lying flat.The formula can get into the middle ear and cause an infection.
- Do notleave a bottle in the crib for the baby to drink at bedtime.
- Make sure your childs immunizations are up to date.
- If your child is diagnosed with acute otitis media, avoid giving him a pacifier.Dress your child properly in cold and rainy weather.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Otitis Media
Symptoms of ear infection include:
- Ear pain: This symptom is obvious in older children and adults. In infants too young to speak, look for signs of pain like rubbing or tugging ears, crying more than usual, trouble sleeping, acting fussy/irritable.
- Loss of appetite: This may be most noticeable in young children, especially during bottle feedings. Pressure in the middle ear changes as the child swallows, causing more pain and less desire to eat.
- Irritability: Any kind of continuing pain may cause irritability.
- Poor sleep: Pain may be worse when the child is lying down because the pressure in the ear may worsen.
- Fever: Ear infections can cause temperatures from 100° F up to 104° F. Some 50% of children will have a fever with their ear infection.
- Drainage from the ear: Yellow, brown, or white fluid that is not earwax may seep from the ear. This may mean that the eardrum has ruptured .
- Trouble hearing: Bones of the middle ear connect to the nerves that send electrical signals to the brain. Fluid behind the eardrums slows down movement of these electrical signals through the inner ear bones.
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.
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The Ear Tube Controversy
While ear tubes do have their place in treating recurrent ear infections, there does exist some controversy over their use. The advantages are listed above, but some common concerns about tubes are:
- Some doctors may be too quick to recommend ear tubes before exhausting all other preventative measures or before allowing enough time to allow the ears to clear up without surgery.
- As with any surgery, there are risks to general anesthesia.
- The tubes often leave a little scar covering approximately one-sixth of the eardrum. This scar is often permanent. There does not seem to be any long-term consequence of this scarring, but were not completely sure. Please note that recurrent ear infections with or without eardrum rupture can also lead to scarring.
- Please note that ear tubes dont always prevent ear infections. Some children will still get as many infections even with the tubes in, but the fluid drains out right away.
- Many children benefit from ear tubes, parents declaring their child is a new person The ear infections are gone, hearing has improved, no more sleepless nights with a crying child, no more endless courses of antibiotics.
- A general indication for tubes are chronic ear fluid for more than four to six months, more than three ear infections in six months, or more than five in one year. You and your doctor should decide together when it is the right time for ear tubes for your child.
How To Get Back Your Hearing After
If you think that your hearing problem is caused by an underlying ear infection, seek medical help. As mentioned, hearing loss after an ear infection is unpredictable. No risks should be taken. The treatment should focus on curing the infection as soon as possible.
1. Otitis Externa
Otitis externa is successfully treated with ear drops. Usually, the symptoms of otitis externa will improve after a couple of days with the treatment. Without treatment, otitis externa will take weeks to resolve. There are four types of ear drops available:
- Corticosteroid ear drops
- Antifungal ear drops
- Acidic ear drops
Sometimes, a combination of these ear drops can be given. When using ear drops for the treatment of otitis externa, it is very important to use them correctly.
- First, you will need to gently remove any debris or discharge from the outer ear using a cotton wool.
- Once the outer ear is cleaned, apply the ear drops on the affected ear.
- Warm the ear drops before using them by holding them in your hands for a couple of minutes.
- After applying the ear drops, gently push and pull the affected ear for a couple of seconds so any trapped air gets out.
- Lie down on one side for about five minutes after applying the ear drops to the affected ear in order for the drops to reach the ear canal and do their work.
- Make sure to leave the ear canal open so it dries out.
Other specialist treatments available when treating an outer ear infection include:
- Dry swabbing
- Syringing or irrigation
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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.
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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