It’s unfortunate but children are more likely to get ear infections than adults. Many times these are middle ear infections, a condition known as acute otitis media. Middle ear infection symptoms are not always obvious, but parents can learn what to watch for. Unchecked ear infections can lead to bigger problems such as hearing loss.
Staying Alert to Middle Ear Infection Symptoms
When a child is well, the middle ear is filled only with air. Inflammation or fluid buildup causes pressure on the tiny vibrating bones that are critical to hearing. This leads to tell-tale pain.
As many parents have experienced, sick children appear fine and then suddenly are complaining or crying due to ear pain. In many cases, colds, flu or allergies are already evident. These illnesses include congestion, and that mucus causes swelling of the nasal passages and fluid buildup in the eustachian tubes. A bacterium or virus follows the mucus into the middle ear.
Recognizing symptoms can be difficult. You may not notice middle ear infection discharge or middle ear hearing loss. Standard cues include headaches, a loss of appetite, and difficulty sleeping. The child may be more likely to cry or be irritable. If these problems are paired with any on the list below, we recommend that you call Pediatric ENT of Oklahoma for a consultation:
- Pus, fluid or bloody discharge from child’s ears
- Sleeplessness/restlessness after a respiratory infection, cold or flu
- Ear infection symptoms in baby less than six months
- Toddler indicates or child expresses ear pain
- Baby or Toddler tugging or pulling at an ear
- Child experiencing ear or headache pain when lying down
- Ear infection symptoms unresponsive to antibiotics
- Decrease in hearing, sound response or speech
- 100-degree F fever (or higher)
- Loss of balance
What is Middle Ear Effusion?
Sometimes an ear infection leaves a problem behind. The inflammation and fluid buildup is there, but the viral or bacterial infection is gone. The condition is called otitis media with effusion. It is important to get medical advice before the problem becomes chronic.
A child who suffers from chronic otitis media with effusion is one who keeps getting bacterial or viral infections. They can’t seem to get rid of the fluid buildup, and their infections keep coming back. Without proper medical intervention, these repeated infections can affect a child’s hearing.
In some cases, a child with persistent ear infections, may experience a perforation or tearing of the eardrum. This is known as chronic suppurative otitis media.
Do Middle Ear Infection Treatments Require Surgery?
Treatment depends on the underlying cause of an ear infection. Some may be treated with antibiotics. Treating sinus congestion is also common. Obviously, attention will be paid to relieving the child’s pain.
Repeated infections usually indicate that the ears aren’t draining properly. In these cases, your doctor may recommend ear tubes to keep the eustachian tubes drained. This common surgery has been shown to help babies and toddlers stay healthier. It also protects against hearing loss.
How can Parents Reduce the Threat of Ear Infection?
There’s no way to zero out the threat of ear infections. Still, there are some common sense ways that parents can reduce their child’s exposure to the conditions that would trigger an ear infection.
- For babies, your doctor may recommend making sure that infants are upright during feeding. Breast milk provides immunities that they don’t have on their own.
- Up until age 2, children are especially susceptible to illnesses. Avoiding situations, such as group daycare, may help them avoid the illness that would trigger an ear infection.
- For all children, parents can reduce the threat of ear infections by avoiding exposure to tobacco smoke or extreme air pollution.
- Parents can help children avoid ear infections by getting help for the child’s seasonal allergies. Being proactive may prevent the congestion that leads to infection.
Pediatric ENT of Oklahoma can tell you more about ear infections in children and babies. Make an appointment to get the help your child needs.