Prevention Of Middle Ear Infection
Many children who get recurrent ear infections have grommets put into their eardrums to prevent infection. Grommets are special ventilating tubes that stop fluid from building up behind the eardrum and help preserve hearing. If your child needs grommets, hell see an ear, nose and throat specialist.
Avoid smoking. Children who are exposed to second-hand smoke are more likely to develop a range of illnesses, including middle ear infections.
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.
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.
When To See Your Doctor
See your doctor if your child:
- Is six months of age or younger
- Has a high fever or bad earache
- Has an ear discharge that lasts more than 24 hours
- Continues to have fever or bad earache two days after they start treatment
- Still seems to have trouble hearing after six to eight weeks
- Seems to be getting worse or you are worried at any time.
Where Is The Middle Ear
The middle ear is behind the eardrum and is also home to the delicate bones that aid in hearing. These bones are the hammer , anvil and stirrup . To provide the bigger picture, lets look at the whole structure and function of the ear:
The ear structure and function
There are three main parts of the ear: outer, middle and inner.
- The outer ear is the outside external ear flap and the ear canal .
- The middle ear is the air-filled space between the eardrum and the inner ear. The middle ear houses the delicate bones that transmit sound vibrations from the eardrum to the inner ear. This is where ear infections occur.
- The inner ear contains the snail-shaped labyrinth that converts sound vibrations received from the middle ear to electrical signals. The auditory nerve carries these signals to the brain.
Other nearby parts
- The eustachian tube regulates air pressure within the middle ear, connecting it to the upper part of the throat.
- Adenoids are small pads of tissue above the throat and behind the nose and near the eustachian tubes. Adenoids help fight infection caused by bacteria that enters through the mouth.
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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 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.
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Common Ear Pain Symptoms In Babies And Children
If your baby or toddler has a painful ear infection, he or she may have a hard time eating or sleeping. Other signs your baby may have an earache or ear infection include:
- Rubbing or tugging at ears
- Difficulty sleeping or eating
- Pain, tenderness, swelling or pressure inside ears
- Crying more than usual
What Causes An Ear Infection
An ear infection usually is caused by bacteria and often begins after a child has a sore throat, cold, or other upper respiratory infection. If the upper respiratory infection is bacterial, these same bacteria may spread to the middle ear if the upper respiratory infection is caused by a virus, such as a cold, bacteria may be drawn to the microbe-friendly environment and move into the middle ear as a secondary infection. Because of the infection, fluid builds up behind the eardrum.
The ear has three major parts: the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. The outer ear, also called the pinna, includes everything we see on the outsidethe curved flap of the ear leading down to the earlobebut it also includes the ear canal, which begins at the opening to the ear and extends to the eardrum. The eardrum is a membrane that separates the outer ear from the middle ear.
The middle earwhich is where ear infections occuris located between the eardrum and the inner ear. Within the middle ear are three tiny bones called the malleus, incus, and stapes that transmit sound vibrations from the eardrum to the inner ear. The bones of the middle ear are surrounded by air.
The inner ear contains the labyrinth, which help us keep our balance. The cochlea, a part of the labyrinth, is a snail-shaped organ that converts sound vibrations from the middle ear into electrical signals. The auditory nerve carries these signals from the cochlea to the brain.
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Why Might Your Doctor Recommend Antibiotics For An Ear Infection
Doctors usually prescribe antibiotics if a child:
- Is younger than 6 months, because infections at this age are less likely to go away during watchful waiting. And normal hearing is very important when a young child is learning to talk.
- Is very ill from the infection. For example, your child may be dehydrated.
- Has other health problems, such as cleft palate or repeat infections that could put him or her at risk for serious problems from an ear infection.
- Has cochlear implants. Children who have these hearing devices are at risk for more serious infection.
Treating Middle Ear Infections
Mild cases of infection can be treated quickly with paracetamol . Do not give regular paracetamol medicine for more than 24 hours without seeking advice from your doctor. It will help if you raise the head of your child’s bed.Some middle ear infections lead to the condition known as glue ear, when thick fluid in the middle ear causes slight deafness. This is not permanent, but it may need treatment. This can include antibiotics and surgery to insert pressure-equalising tubes in the ear drums. Children with glue ear usually recover in a few weeks after the fluid has drained away.
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Ear Infection Treatment Options
Due to the variety of ear infections, patients may be given a few different treatment options. Middle ear infections do not always require prescription medication due to the bodys natural ability to fight off the infection. Your doctor or pediatrician may recommend a method of treatment called watchful waiting. This involves two to three days of rest, drinking lots of fluids, and the use of over-the-counter pain relievers as needed. If after two to three days the patient is not improving, the doctor may write a prescription for antibiotics. Alternatively, the physician may write a prescription for an antibiotic but recommend waiting two to three days before filling in case the ear infection clears up in the meantime.
In some cases, using a tympanostomy tube may be necessary to prevent fluid from building up in the ear and to assist with relieving air pressure near the eustachian tube.
Do Ear Infections Clear Up On Their Own
Some ear infections may clear on their own. Middle ear infections are often cured by the bodys immune system when left alone. However, inner and outer infections may require medication. If patients are experiencing more than just the common symptoms of ear infections then they should seek medical attention.
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When Your Doctor May Prescribe Antibiotics
While every situation is unique, there are several factors that doctors consider when recommending antibiotics:
- What they see If the infection is in the outer ear, it may be clear its caused by bacteria. In this case your doctor may recommend antibiotic eardrops to help clean out the ear infection. If your doctor cant see the ear infection because its on the inside of the ear, they may not prescribe antibiotics right away.
- How long its been Viral infections typically go away on their own in 1-2 weeks. If the ear infection has been around for less than a week, your doctor may recommend waiting to see if the ear infection goes away on its own, a sign that its viral. If its been more than a week, your doctor may recommend starting antibiotics.
- Your childs age The doctor may be more likely to prescribe antibiotics for children under 2 years old, especially if they have infections in both ears, have pain thats moderate to severe, or have a fever.
- Symptoms If you or your child have certain symptoms, such as an extremely high fever or severe dehydration, your doctor may recommend starting antibiotics sooner.
- Medical conditions Your doctor may recommend starting antibiotics right away if there are certain medical conditions, such as cleft palate or repeat infections, that could lead to problems with an ear infection. In most cases, antibiotics will also be recommended when someone with a cochlear implant gets an ear infection.
What Causes An Infection
Millions of microbes live on our skin and inside our body, and generally cause little harm. Trillions more live in the environment or on other animals. The most common organisms that can cause infection include:
- Bacteria. These are microscopic, usually single-celled organisms that are food everywhere . Common bacterial infections include acne, pneumonia, bronchitis, and ear infections.
- Viruses. These consist of a nucleic acid molecule in a protein coat, that is only able to multiply within the living cells of a host. Common viral infections include the colds, flu, and herpes
- Fungi. These are multicellular organisms that are free-living in soil or water or form parasitic or symbiotic relationships with plants or animals. Examples of fungal infections include Vaginal thrush and athletes foot.
- Parasites. These live in or on an organism of another species and derive nutrients at the hosts expense, such as pinworms or tape worms.
- Prions. These are a type of protein that can trigger normal proteins in the brain to fold abnormally. Some are spread by infected meat products .
Normally, your immune system helps protect your body against these invaders. However, cancer, chemotherapy, medications such as steroids, heavy metals, toxins, a poor diet or sleep, and many other health conditions can damage your immune system reducing your ability to fight infection.
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Five Tips For Ear Infection Treatment At Home
Even when antibiotics are prescribed, they wont take effect for 24 to 48 hours. Your child need not suffer needlessly. There are simple, effective ways to reduce your childs discomfort and pain during an ear infection.
1. Fever and pain medicine: based it on age, consult with doctor
Over-the-counter medications can help reduce pain and fever in your child. Based it on age and weight and consult with your pediatrician if necessary.
Read labels and instructions carefully when giving fever-reducing medications. Its very important to follow instructions and give the appropriate dosage according to your childs weight and age, says Dr. Hutton.
- For children younger than 6 months, give only acetaminophen, such as Tylenol.
- For children older than 6 months, you may give also give an ibuprofen product, such as Advil, for fever and pain.
- Infants younger than 3 months old who have a fever need immediate medical attention even if they appear well and show no other signs of being ill.
- Do not give aspirin to children because it can cause Reyes syndrome, a rare but very serious illness that harms the liver and brain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .
2. Place a cold pack or warm compress over your childs ear
Put a cold wet washcloth on the outer ear for 20 minutes to help with pain until the pain medicine starts to work.
3. Keep child hydrated
Make sure to keep your child well hydrated. Give lots of cold fluids.
4. Elevate your childs head
When To Call A Doctor
While home remedies are often all that is needed for a child’s ear infection, a visit to a healthcare provider may be necessary.
- They are under six months of age
- They are under three months of age and have a temperature of 100.4°F or higher
- They have a fever of 102.2°F or higher
- Symptoms last longer than two to three days or get worse
- Symptoms are severe
- Pus or discharge is leaking from the ear
- Hearing loss occurs or is suspected
- Ear infections are reoccurring
- Your child snores while asleep
- You think your child needs to be seen
Your child’s healthcare provider may want to see the child even if home remedies seem to be working.
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Will Earaches Hurt My Child’s Hearing
Middle ear infections and fluid in the ear are the most common causes of temporary hearing loss in children. Children who have ongoing problems with hearing may have trouble developing their speech and language skills. For this reason, it is important to talk with your doctor if your child has repeated ear infections.
Home Remedies To Treat Ear Infection In Kids
Children suffer from ear infections caused due to viruses or bacteria. These infections are more common among children than adults. The reasons for this infection includes a build-up of wax, infections of the trachea, environmental and food allergies, genetics, alcohol syndrome, internal injuries and nutritional deficiencies.
You know that your child has an ear infection when you see him tugging at his ear, screaming and crying with pain, sleeping poorly, suffering a headache, vomiting, diarrhea and burning with fever.
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What Happens If An Ear Infection Is Left Untreated
Fluid buildup in the ear can be damaging even if theres no infection and may lead to a ruptured eardrum and hearing loss. So, its important to see the doctor if symptoms remain after finishing the antibiotics. Theyll likely want to take a look in your ear and learn more about your symptoms.
Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may recommend you see an ear, nose and throat doctor. The ENT doctor may recommend surgery to place small metal or plastic tubes in the ear canal to make it easier for the fluid to drain out. Your doctor may also recommend ear tube surgery for your child if they have recurrent ear infections.
What Should I Expect If I Or My Child Has An Ear Infection
Ear infections are common in children. Adults can get them too. Most ear infections are not serious. Your healthcare provider will recommend over-the-counter medications to relieve pain and fever. Pain relief may begin as soon as a few hours after taking the drug.
Your healthcare provider may wait a few days before prescribing an antibiotic. Many infections go away on their own without the need for antibiotics. If you or your child receives an antibiotic, you should start to see improvement within two to three days.
If you or your child has ongoing or frequent infections, or if fluid remains in the middle ear and puts hearing at risk, ear tubes may be surgically implanted in the eardrum to keep fluid draining from the eustachian tube as it normally should.
Never hesitate to contact your healthcare provider if you have any concerns or questions.
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How To Treat A Child’s Ear Infection
An ear infection usually goes away on its own but, if it doesn’t, your child may need treatment. Most doctors will prescribe an antibiotic such as amoxicillin. It’s important that your child takes the exact dosage over the full amount of time, even if symptoms improve. Your doctor may also recommend over-the-counter medicine for ear infections with pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
If your child has repeated ear infections within a short period of time, or has hearing loss due to fluid build-up, your child’s physician may recommend ear tube surgery. Learn more about when a child may need ear tubes.