Ear Infections in Children

If your young child’s ear is hurting or they are being very fussy, it could be an ear infection, which is an inflammation of the middle ear. Ear infections in children are not fun to deal with for both the child and the parent but are very common, especially in children between 6 months and 3 years of age.  Five out of six children will have at least one ear infection by their third birthday. Ear infections are the leading reason parents take their children to see their doctor.

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How do I know if my child has an ear infection?
While children older than four or five can usually communicate their ear discomfort, younger children typically can not explain their ear pain. These children might be experiencing the following symptoms.

  • An unexplained fever.
  • Pull at their ears.
  • Have trouble sleeping.
  • Usually fussy or irritable.
  • Have trouble hearing sounds.
  • Fluid draining from the ear.

What causes an ear infection?
Viruses or bacteria cause middle ear infections which is different that swimmer’s ear which is an infection of the outer ear. The infection can travel up from the throat to the Eustachian tube which connects the middle ear with the back of the throat.

Who is at higher risk for ear infections?

  • Children younger than 5 years old because their immune systems are still developing and they have shorter Eustachian tubes.
  • Children who attend daycare or preschool because they are exposed to many other children.
  • Children with allergies.
  • Children who are exposed to passive cigarette smoke. Smoke causes inflammation of the Eustachian tube, making ear infections more likely.

How is an ear infection diagnosed?​
Doctors use an otoscope to look in the ear, specifically at the eardrum. We look for fluid in the middle ear, at the color of the eardrum, the position of the eardrum, and determine the pressure in the middle ear.

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