One of the most common reasons children are brought in for medical appointments is to deal with an ear infection. The most common form of ear infection is “acute otitis media,” a bacterial or viral infection that affects the middle ear. The discomfort your child might feel from a middle ear infection is the result of fluid build up behind the eardrum.
How Did My Child Get an Ear Infection?
Children are more likely to get an ear infection than adults for a variety of reasons. The most common cause is because children’s middle ears are a different size and shape than adults. In fact, the National Institute of Health states that five out of six children will have at least one ear infection before they turn three years old. Ear infections don’t always manifest by themselves, either. They often appear with the common cold, the flu, strep throat, and sinus infections.
What Kinds of Symptoms Should I Look For?
If your child is old enough, he or she will probably let you know his or her ear hurts. If your child doesn’t tell you his or her symptoms, or isn’t able to communicate that information yet, you may notice a fever or drainage of fluid from the ear. You might also see the child tugging at his or her ears or notice that your child is more irritable, sleeping less easily, acting less balanced, or crying more than usual. You can help your child feel a bit better in the mean time by placing a warm, moist washcloth over the ear – or ears – that hurt.
When Should I See A Provider?
If the symptoms and discomfort continue for more than 24-hours, you should bring your child in for an exam. Your pediatrician may prescribe antibiotics or recommend OTC medicines like acetaminophen or eardrops – but these treatments vary with the age of your child.
The best action to take when you suspect your child has an ear infection is by keeping an eye on his or her symptoms and to make an appointment with your provider if the discomfort persists.