Ear infections are a common issue among children. A pediatrician sees ear infection cases almost daily. Ear infections are extremely uncommon for adults. Most ear infections are a result of the anatomy of the ear. You are probably wondering how the ears differ among children and adults, but there are subtle changes that make a child more susceptible to ear infections. Ear infections are not contagious, but they do bring about a host of symptoms that are uncomfortable for the child. Since a baby cannot talk and tell you what is going on all the time, being aware of their symptoms can help you give them the relief they need from their pain.
The structure of the ear is intricate. There are different parts, and each part has a specific function in our ability to hear. The ear is divided into three sections: the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear. The middle ear and inner ear are typically the sources of ear infections. The most common ear infection is the middle ear infection. There are many different causes of ear infections, and they all cause a lot of pain and discomfort for a child. The ear is composed of the eardrum which is connected to a tube. The tubes in the ear are what are necessary for drainage. In a child, the tubes are more horizontal; therefore, children get more ear infections because the tubes do not drain as effectively. Adults have tubes that are more vertical. Draining is much better, and ear infections are unlikely.
Ear infections are typically associated with other health conditions. Some common conditions include sinus infections, colds, and the flu. All three types of infections are a result of bacteria being trapped in the fluid behind the ear. As that bacteria attacks, it leads to inflammation and other problems. Swimmer’s ear is another name for outer ear infections. It is called swimmer’s ear because it is a common condition in swimmers. The water that gets clogged inside the ear can build up and get stuck creating an infection. No matter the cause of the infection, they all create the same symptoms.
An ear infection starts out with inflammation in the ear. The inflammation puts a lot of pressure on the eardrum. This pressure is what causes most of the pain felt from an ear infection. Another symptom is ear drainage. If you or your child wakes up with what seems to be water on their pillow, it is a result of leakage from the eardrum. The leakage typically means the eardrum has burst, and fluid has been expelled. Ear infections will also cause a fever which can make you feel really bad. A child sometimes has trouble explaining how they feel and where they are hurting. A baby cannot express it at all, but there are some signs you should watch out for.
Signs of an Ear Infection
- Ear pulling – a child, will mess with the area that gives them pain. This pulling is a sure sign of an ear infection.
- Irritable– If your child is more irritable than normal, that could be a sign of sickness. They may seem restless and uneasy
- Trouble Laying down– When your child is laying down, they will have the most pain so you will notice they may not be able to sleep well. They will find more relief sitting up.
These three signs are very common, and if you notice them, you should take your child to the doctor.
Most ear infections are treated with antibiotics. Since ear infections are a bacterial issue, antibiotics are very effective in treating the problem. Your child should start feeling better after a few days. Ear drops may also help with ear infections. If ear infections are persistent, your child may need surgery. The surgery is not long or extremely risky. A surgeon will put tubes in the ears of a child to assist with draining. The tubes go through the eardrum and after a while, they will fall out. Sometimes the tubes are removed and replaced. The placement of tubes is very common. Many children with recurrent ear infections tend to have tubes to help ease their symptoms. Tubes do not cure ear infections, but they can cut down on the number of ear infections a child gets per year. The removal of tonsils can help as well if your child has large tonsils that affect drainage.
Ear infections are not a serious condition and in most cases, they do not cause any damage to the ears, but the pain and discomfort can leave your child feeling terrible. Having recurrent ear infections is not a good thing just for the overall health of your child. If you notice your child struggling with ear infections, you should talk with their pediatrician about options for reducing the infections. You may not be able to cure the problem, but you can help prevent it.
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