What causes an ear
Children may be at higher risk for
ear infections if they:
- Are around people who smoke.
- Have had previous ear infections.
- Have a family history of ear infections.
- Attend day care (because they are exposed to more
germs and viruses).
- Were born prematurely or with a low birth weight.
- Have frequent colds or other infections.
- Take a bottle to bed.
- Use a pacifier.
- Are male (boys tend to get more ear infections
- Have nasal speech (caused by large adenoids that
block the eustachian tube).
- Have allergies with nasal congestion.
A tube called the eustachian (say:
“you-stay-shun”) tube connects the middle ear with the back of the
nose. Normally this tube lets fluid drain out of the middle ear. If bacteria or
viruses infect the lining of your child’s eustachian tube, the tube gets
swollen and fills with thick mucus. This keeps fluid in the ear from draining
normally. Bacteria can grow in the fluid, increasing pressure behind the eardrum
and causing pain. This is called an acute ear infection, or acute otitis
What are symptoms of an acute ear
The most common symptoms of an acute ear
infection are ear pain and fever. If your child is too young to tell you what
hurts, he or she may cry or pull on his or her ear. Your child may also be
irritable, have trouble hearing, or not feel like eating or
How is an acute ear infection
If your doctor thinks bacteria caused your
child’s ear infection, he or she may prescribe an antibiotic. It’s
very important to follow your doctor’s directions for giving the medicine
to your child and to use all of it. The pain and fever should go away within 2
to 3 days of starting an antibiotic.
If a virus caused your child’s ear
infection, antibiotics will not work. You’ll have to wait until the virus
goes away on its own.
To help your child feel better and reduce fever,
your doctor may suggest using a pain reliever such as acetaminophen or
ibuprofen. Don’t give your child aspirin unless your doctor says
it’s OK. Aspirin can cause Reye's syndrome, a serious illness, and in
some cases, death when it's used in children under 18 who have the flu. Your
doctor might prescribe ear drops to reduce pain. A warm (not hot) heating pad
held on your child’s ear may also relieve his or her pain. (This is not
recommended for young babies.)
What is otitis media with
Sometimes after the symptoms of an acute ear
infection go away, fluid stays in the middle ear. This is called otitis media
with effusion. (Effusion is another word for fluid buildup.) Unlike an acute ear
infection, otitis media with effusion doesn’t usually cause much pain or
fever. Your child may have trouble hearing and a “plugged up”
feeling in his or her ear.
How is otitis media with effusion
Uninfected fluid in your child’s middle
ear will almost always go away on its own and usually doesn’t have to be
treated with antibiotics. This may take up to 3 months.
If the fluid is still there after a few months
and is causing hearing problems in both ears, antibiotics may help some
children. For this reason, your doctor will probably check your child’s
ears a few months after an acute ear infection.
Why not try antibiotics right
Giving your child unnecessary antibiotics can be
harmful. After each course of antibiotics, the germs in the nose and throat are
more likely to become resistant. This means the usual antibiotics can’t
kill the germs. You have to use more expensive and powerful antibiotics. Some of
these antibiotics must be given in the hospital and their side effects can be
very unpleasant or even dangerous.
Will ear infections hurt my
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 lots of ear infections.
What if my child gets lots of ear
If your child has very frequent ear infections,
your doctor may recommend preventive antibiotic treatment or ear tubes.
Preventive antibiotics can be given in a low dose every day for several months,
usually in the winter when respiratory illnesses are common.
Ear tubes are put in the eardrum by a surgeon to
help the middle ear fluid drain. Because of the way the eardrum heals, ear tubes
will often come out on their own after several months to 2