An ear infection is an inflammation of the middle ear caused by bacteria. It occurs when fluid builds up behind the eardrum. Anyone can get an ear infection, but they are incredibly common in children. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, nearly 75 percent of children will have at least one ear infection by their third birthday. In fact, ear infections account for the most common reason parents take their children to see a doctor.
Ear infections occur when the Eustachian tubes – tubes located near the eardrum that connect the ear to the back of the throat – become blocked and aren’t able to properly drain fluid. The fluid trapped in these tubes can become a breeding ground for bacteria, resulting in redness and inflammation of the eardrum. Ear infections occur most frequently in boys, in children with a family history of ear infections, and during winter when colds and upper respiratory tract infections are common.
An ear infection will usually make your child pretty uncomfortable, so a clear sign for babies and toddlers will be an increase in overall fussiness and crying. Other signs that indicate your child is suffering from an ear infection include:
- Pain in the ear ─ Older children will most likely tell you that their ears hurt. Babies and toddlers, on the other hand, may tug at their ears and cry more than usual.
- Difficulty sleeping ─ Your child may experience pain from pressure building in the ears which can cause difficulty sleeping. They may have trouble both falling and staying asleep.
- Trouble hearing ─ Fluid build-up in the ear can block sound, but hearing will usually return to normal once the infection has cleared.
- Fever ─ A fever is a sign that the immune system is at work trying to fight off the infection. Your child’s temperature may range from 99 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Yellow, white, or green drainage from the ear ─ While not very common, this is a sign that the eardrum has ruptured. The fluid blocked behind the eardrum can now leak out. This is a definite indication of infection, so you should call your doctor right away. Although this may sound scary, the eardrum will heal on its own as the infection improves. Your child may start to feel better as the fluid drains and pressure decreases.
A doctor will be able to determine if your child does indeed have an ear infection. Most ear infections do not require antibiotic therapy. An ear infection will often go away within 2 or 3 days. Antibiotics should only be given if there is high fever, drainage, or the ear infection lasts for more than 5 days. Your pediatrician can prescribe analgesic or pain medicines for your child’s comfort.
If your child exhibits signs of an ear infection, schedule an appointment with a Winter Springs Pediatrician at Family First Pediatrics by calling 407-335-4760