January 5, 2021 3:54 pm
Ear infections in kids are practically a rite of passage—by age 3, 5 out of 6 children have had an ear infection, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Just because ear infections in kids are common, however, doesn’t mean that they’re easy for parents to navigate.
Ear infections occur when fluid builds up in the eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear to the throat. The eustachian tube may fill with fluid because of allergies or an infection caused by a virus or bacteria, among other reasons, and the fluid can become infected.
Signs of an Ear Infection
Ear infections can cause slightly different symptoms in babies compared with toddlers and older children. In babies, look for:
- Crying that’s difficult to soothe
- Pulling on the ear, which can indicate ear pain
- Trouble sleeping
- Unusual irritability
Toddlers and older children may also have a fever or struggle to sleep. Common symptoms in kids of these ages include:
- Ear pain
- Feeling like the ear is full
- Fluid draining from the ear
- Loss of appetite
- Stuffy nose
- Trouble hearing in the affected ear
How Are Ear Infections in Kids Treated?
In many cases, ear infections clear up on their own within three days. If your new baby is showing symptoms, however, you shouldn’t assume no action is needed. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends consulting a healthcare provider if your baby is 6 months old or younger and has signs of an ear infection. If your primary care provider (PCP) or pediatrician diagnoses an ear infection, he or she will likely prescribe antibiotics.
It’s always a good idea to consult your pediatrician if you’re concerned about symptoms, no matter your child’s age. If your child is older than 6 months and doesn’t have a high fever or severe symptoms, you may be able to treat the infection at home by:
- Gently placing a warm compress against your child’s ear
- Giving your child prescription or non-prescription ear drops
- Using an over-the-counter medication, such as ibuprofen, to ease pain or reduce fever
Be sure to follow up with your PCP if symptoms continue after several days of home treatment. See your pediatrician right away if your child has a fever higher than 102˚F, severe symptoms or an underlying health condition, the NIH recommends.
Read more: When to Take Your Child to the Doctor
What if Ear Infections Keep Happening?
Some children experience lengthy or frequent ear infections, despite using ear drops, over-the-counter drugs or prescription antibiotics. If your child has recurrent ear infections, your pediatrician may refer you to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist. This physician may place tubes in the ear to allow fluid to drain from the eustachian tube, which can prevent ear infections. Your child won’t need these tubes for the rest of his or her life—they’ll fall out on their own as s/he grows or, if necessary, an ENT can remove them.
Is your child showing signs of an ear infection? Find a pediatrician or primary care provider who can help by calling (662) 664-5181.
This post was written by Magnolia Regional Health Center