Ear Infections in children are not like the cold or flu. An ear infection is not something your child catch’s because they weren’t bundled up enough or because they put their hands in their mouth. Ear infections, also called otitis media, are a result of the fluid build-up in the middle ear. Children are more susceptible to ear infections due to the structure of the year. As an adult, the tubes in the ear are more vertical which allows for better draining. As a child, the tubes sit a bit more horizontally, so the fluid does not drain as well. If your child is experiencing ear infections, treatment is available.
Structure of the Ear
The ears have three different parts: the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear. The inner ear contains what is called Eustachian tubes. These tubes are used for draining the fluid that naturally occurs in the ears. The tubes connect to the back of the throat so that it can empty. Most infections in children happen in the middle ear. The middle ear contains the eardrum. Sometimes the fluid does not drain properly and builds up behind the eardrum creating otitis media. Nearly 50% of children get an ear infection before their first birthday. Ear infections are so prevalent among children because their Eustachian tubes have not completely developed. The Eustachian tubes sit slightly horizontal. The fluid does not drain as effectively.
Types of Otitis Media
There are three main types of otitis media. Otitis media can be chronic, acute, or with effusion. Acute otitis media is a one-time occurrence. Fluid builds behind the ear drum causing pain and discomfort. There is a lot of redness and inflammation adding to the pain. Chronic otitis media is a condition that is ongoing. After one infection ends, another one begins. The fluid remains in the eardrum and does not completely drain. This is similar to otitis media with effusion. Ear infections are not recurrent, but the fluid does not drain totally and stays in the eardrum.
Symptoms of Ear Infections in Children
Children, especially toddlers, cannot express their pain like adults. Sometimes it is hard to tell if your child has an ear infection. There are a few signs that can help you diagnose an ear infection in your child. Babies tend to mess with the area that gives them pain. When it comes to ear infections, babies pull at their ears. They may not sleep well and seem very irritable. When you lay them down, they will hurt more than when they are sitting up. They may only be able to sleep sitting up because the pressure will not be as great. If you think your child is experiencing an ear infection, you should go to the doctor immediately so they can get antibiotics.
Treatment of Ear Infections in Children
If you have a child that is susceptible to recurrent or chronic ear infections, tubes may be the best method of treatment. Tube placement requires surgery. The child will be under general anesthesia. The surgery is typically done on both ears, even if one ear has more infections that the other. The tube is inserted through the eardrum. It acts as a ventilator. It helps with draining and keeps the pressure in the ear normalized. Although it may help to prevent future ear infections, your child may still have an infection. Tubes can stay in the ears for over a year. It just depends on the severity of the situation. Sometimes the tubes fall out and have to be replaced. Tubes are not typically done in adults because ear infections are not as prevalent in adults. If your child needs tubes, you should not worry. It will not affect their hearing or cause any damage.
Ear infections can be avoided. Most ear infections are a result of a cold, flu, or allergies. If you can avoid these sicknesses in your child, you can also avoid ear infections. Allergies are something that you cannot cure, but you can get control over. Knowing that allergy season is coming up, it is important to get those allergy drugs. It may be best for your child to take allergy medicine before leaving the house. This helps you get ahead of the allergy symptoms before they even start. Staying bundled up in the cold months also prevent sickness. Healthy eating helps your child fight off infection even better. Putting good food in their body will keep them healthy and the give them more power to fight.
Ear infections are common for children, but it can be both avoided and treated. If your child is susceptible to ear infections, you should talk with an ENT physician. Their problem may be a result of enlarged tonsils or ear tube dysfunction. Ear infections are not necessarily serious, but it is painful. Pay attention to the signs and symptoms and make sure to get treatment as soon as possible.
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