Ear infection, known medically as otitis media, is a common condition usually affecting children. It occurs when your child’s middle ear becomes infected, usually by bacteria, causing inflammation. If your child is old enough to talk, he or she may be able to tell you that his or her ear is painful. However, it may be difficult to tell if your child is having an infection if he or she is too young to talk. Here are some tips on how you can find out if your baby may be having ear infection.
Suspect ear infection if your baby:
- is repeatedly pulling, grabbing or tugging at one or both ears
- has trouble sleeping
- is irritable or constantly crying
- has fever
- has trouble walking (if he or she is able to walk)
- has fluid draining from the ear
- is having trouble hearing or responding to sounds
- has had a recent bout of cold, sore throat or sinus infection
Almost all children will have a bout of ear infection making it the most common reason for parents bringing their child to the doctor’s clinic. In fact, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), three out of four children will experience at least one ear infection by the time they reach the age of three.
Why is ear infection common in children?
Although anyone can get ear infection, children are the most commonly affected with the condition. The reason for this is that the eustachian tube-a small tube that connects the middle ear to the upper part of the throat-in children is not fully developed and more leveled compared to adults. As a result, it is harder for fluid to drain even in normal conditions.
During a cold or other respiratory infection, your child’s eustachian tubes may swell or become blocked by mucus making drainage of fluid from the middle ear harder. Fluid then builds up in the middle ear, which may become an encouraging environment for germs to multiply and cause an infection.
Another reason is that, your child’s immune system is not fully developed and is not that effective in fighting infections.
Treatment of ear infections in children depends on the cause. For example, if your doctor discovers that your child’s ear infection is caused by bacteria, he or she may prescribe antibiotics.
Some ear infections may clear up on their own even without special medical treatment. The doctor may, however, recommend over-the-counter drug for fever relief, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen and pain relief drops to manage earache. Never give children aspirin.
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). Ear Infections in Children. Accessed on September 21, 2010.
MedlinePlus. Ear Infection – acute. Accessed on September 21, 2010.