What Causes An Ear Infection?
Ear infections can occur when fluid becomes trapped in the middle ear and then becomes infected by bacteria or a virus. The middle ear is an air-filled space behind the eardrum. This is most likely to happen when the Eustachian tube becomes blocked. This is a narrow passageway that connects the throat to the middle ear. Typically, this blockage is caused by swelling or congestion from a cold or other respiratory issues, which is why an ear infection often develops shortly after or during a cold. Allergies can also cause inflammation that obstructs the Eustachian tubes. If your child is suffering from allergy symptoms, he or she could also develop an ear infection. Ear infections are not contagious. However, the cold virus that can lead to an ear infection which is contagious.
Why Are Children Prone to Ear Infections?
Some children are more prone to getting ear infections than others. This depends on a myriad of things including length and angle of Eustachian tubes, diet, whether or not your child has allergies, et cetera. Children are more likely to get ear infections versus adults because their tubes are less developed, and therefore they are more likely to get fluid trapped in the middle ear. Additionally, a child’s immune system is still developing, so he or she has a tougher time than an adult in fighting off viruses and bacteria.
How Can Parents Identify an Ear Infection?
Older children can tell you if they have ear pain, but not all ear infections cause pain. So identifying an ear infection in infants and toddlers is tough because they still lack the skills to speak. Children of these ages may express discomfort by tugging on their ear, not responding to sounds normally, or may cry excessively when lying down flat. Other indicators of an ear infection can include fever, difficulty sleeping, diminished appetite, vomiting, or diarrhea.
What Should You Do?
Though antibiotics are very often used to treat ear infections, they aren’t always necessary. Some parents just wait and watch, but we highly recommend bringing your child to the doctor. If you can’t get in with your pediatrician or if it is after hours, definitely come see us at Little Spurs Pediatric Urgent Care, where we accept walk ins and are open until 9 pm during the week, and until 6 pm on weekends.
Your child should be evaluated if you see fluid or puss draining from your child’s ear. This can signal a perforated eardrum, a condition that can develop if the fluid in the middle ear puts so much pressure on the eardrum, that it bursts. Although a burst eardrum may sound scary and can be very painful for your child, the hole is not serious and will usually heal by itself.
To lessen your child’s discomfort from an ear infection, your pediatrician may recommend acetaminophen or Ibuprofen. But avoid over-the-counter eardrops unless your doctor recommends them, as they can cause permanent damage if your child’s eardrum is perforated. Also flying on a plane when your child has an ear infection can significantly increase pain or even rupture the eardrum because of the change in air pressure.
Are Ear Infections Preventable?
There are no guarantees, but you can take these steps to lower your child’s odds of ending up in the doctor’s office with an ear infection. During the winter cold season avoid busy child play areas and other places that are potentially crowded with ill children. Breast feed your infant. This helps to develop your child’s immune system. Have your child vaccinated. If your child suffers from seasonal allergies, see your doctor about preventive measures to decrease congestion.
Little Spurs Pediatric Urgent Care has 9 locations in Houston and San Antonio.If you have any questions please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by: Kelly Gerszewski, Community Liaison for Dr. Thomas Spurgat, MD.