The ear has three main parts: the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear. A tiny tube, called the eustachian tube, connects the middle ear to the back of the throat and nose. When a child has a cold, nose or throat infection, or allergy, the eustachian tube can become blocked, causing a buildup of fluid in the middle ear. If this fluid becomes infected by bacteria or a virus, it can cause swelling of the eardrum and pain in the ear. This type of ear infection is called acute otitis media.
Often after the symptoms of acute otitis media clear up, fluid remains in the ear. Acute otitis media then develops into another kind of ear problem called otitis media with effusion. This condition is harder to detect than acute otitis media because, except for the fluid and some hearing loss that is usually mild, there are often no other noticeable symptoms. This fluid often lasts for up to 3 months and, in most cases, disappears on its own. The child's hearing then returns to normal.
There are several risk factors for developing childhood ear infection, including:
Age. Infants and young children are more likely to get ear infections. The size and shape of their eustachian tubes make it easier for fluid to build up. Ear infections occur most often in children between 3 months and 3 years of age. Also, the younger a child is at the time of the first ear infection, the greater the chance he or she will have repeated infections.
Sex. Although researchers are not sure why, boys have more ear infections than girls.
Heredity. Ear infections can run in families. Children are more likely to have repeated middle-ear infections if a parent or sibling also had repeated ear infections.
Colds/Allergies. Colds often lead to ear infections. Children in group child care settings have a higher chance of passing their colds to each other because they are exposed to more germs and viruses from the other children. Allergies that cause stuffy noses can also lead to ear infections.
Tobacco smoke. Children who breathe in someone else's tobacco smoke have a higher risk of developing health problems, including ear infections.
Bottle-feeding. Babies who are bottle-fed, especially while they are lying down, get more ear infections than breastfed babies. If you bottle-feed your child, hold his or her head above the stomach level during feedings. This keeps the eustachian tubes from getting blocked.
Your child may have a number of symptoms during an ear infection. Some of the common symptoms are pain, fever, and difficulty hearing. If your child's ears are infected, your pediatrician may prescribe an antibiotic. Be sure to follow your pediatrician's instructions closely. Make sure your child finishes the entire prescription. If you stop the medication too soon, some of the bacteria that caused the ear infection may still be present and cause an infection to start all over again.
Sometimes an ear infection does not go away even after your child takes an antibiotic. If your child still has fever or ear pain for more than 2 days, call your pediatrician. Your pediatrician may need to prescribe a different antibiotic.
To help with pain, your pediatrician may recommend an over-the-counter nonaspirin medicine, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Do not give aspirin to your child; it has been associated with Reye syndrome, a disease that affects the liver and brain. Your pediatrician might also suggest putting warm (not hot) compresses against your child's ears to help relieve pain. (This is not recommended for young babies.) Keep your child sitting up as much as possible; this may help lessen pressure on the middle ear and ease pain. An extra pillow at night may also help. (Never use pillows in a crib.) Avoid using over-the-counter cold medicines (decongestants and antihistamines) as they do not help clear up ear infections.
Most ear infections that develop in children are minor. They are<
TV Show Excerpt - Ear Infections