Ear infections are one of the most common reasons why children see ENT doctors every year. While adults can develop ear infections, too, they are the cause of many sleepless nights and lost school days for kids.
Let’s explore reasons why ear infections develop and the do’s and don’ts of preventing and treating them.
Why Do Ear Infections Happen?
A vast number of ear infections occur in young children under the age of five. Typically, the infections involve the middle ear, as fluid collects behind the eardrum, causing painful bulging of this tiny structure essential for sound transmission.
Also called otitis media, a middle ear infection often occurs after the cold or flu, if the child is exposed to second-hand cigarette smoke, or due to structural abnormalities, such as large tonsils or adenoids. In addition, in young children, the eustachian tube between the ear and throat is more horizontally oriented and easily collects and retains fluid. This increases the risk of ear infections.
As children grow, many of these structural problems resolve naturally. However, in the meantime, some youngsters may have several episodes of otitis media during every cold and flu season.
Symptoms of An Ear Infection
While it is difficult for children to describe their symptoms when they are sick, ear infections have some obvious signs that you should look out for. Kids with ear infections often complain about their ears–and therefore, possible infections–in many ways. Babies and toddlers cry and fuss, lose sleep, and pull on the affected ear. Also, children run fevers, have sore throats, a drop in their hearing, earaches, or even severe ear pain. Some may have nausea, vomiting, and vertigo, and they often complain of fullness in the ear.
Treatment for Ear Infections
As a parent, you should seek ear infection treatment for your youngster. Your Georgetown ENT doctor can examine their ears with a lighted otoscope and assess their symptoms. They may also do a simple, painless test called a tympanogram, which detects the movement of the eardrum in response to sound sent through the middle ear.
Treatment for ear infections varies. In fact, while antibiotic therapy for bacterial ear infections is quite effective, it is not always the first choice. Sometimes, an ENT doctor may allow a period of waiting – about 2 to 3 days — to see if symptoms resolve naturally.
Other treatments include:
- Acetaminophen for pain
- Warm compress to the affected ear
- Sleeping on the unaffected side
For severe and repeated ear infections, your ENT doctor may recommend surgical placement of ventilation tubes in the ears. This simple procedure is called a tympanostomy. It works well to keep the area behind the eardrum free of fluid for several months.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Ear Infections
- Do stay alert to the signs and symptoms of ear infection, particularly in babies and toddlers. Call your doctor right away if drainage appears or symptoms are severe.
- Do get your family vaccinated against influenza every year.
- Do keep ears free of ear wax. Use a warm washcloth–never a cotton-tipped swab–to clean the outer ear.
- Do see your ENT doctor for safe, in-office ear wax removal.
- Do dry your ears completely after showering or swimming.
- Do practice good hand-washing, and teach your kids to do the same.
- Don’t over-medicate. Antibiotics are not always necessary.
- Don’t smoke, and avoid situations where secondhand smoke could be a problem.
- Don’t dismiss symptoms if they last longer than 3 days.
Your Georgetown ENT Doctor
At Georgetown ENT, Dr. Scott William Franklin is board-certified in otolaryngology. He has helped numerous patients of all ages with ear infections with state-of-the-art treatments, such as tympanostomy ear tube insertion.
Call our Georgetown, TX, office for an appointment at (512) 869-0604, or request an appointment online. Excellent ENT health is only a phone call away!