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Pediatric Ear Infection

An ear infection can be unpleasant for anyone, but is particularly distressing for a baby or toddler. Ear infections cause pain, irritability and loss of appetite. You may notice that when your child has an ear infection, they may grab at their ears, have poor sleeping patterns or experience moodiness. Find out about these and other symptoms as well as solutions for pediatric ear infections.

Causes and concerns

An ear infection (referred to as either acute or chronic otitis media) occurs behind the eardrum in the middle ear. This type of illness is often called a middle ear infection. Many children, especially those under the age of seven, suffer from these types of ear infections. This type of illness causes pain when left untreated and can lead to serious complications, such as infection or hearing loss.

Ear infections are common in young children because their Eustachian tube, a tube that runs from the middle ear to the throat, does not work as well as in older children or adults. The Eustachian tube helps to equalize pressure within the middle ear as well as drain any fluids that may accumulate in the normally air-filled middle ear cavity. When the Eustachian tube doesn’t work properly, it can’t drain fluids from the middle ear or equalize pressure. When the fluid becomes trapped in the middle ear, an ear infection develops. Once the fluid is trapped, bacteria and viruses can form which cause the infection.

Symptoms and signs

There are a few different symptoms to look for if you believe your child is suffering from an ear infection. You may not even notice these, as signs of an ear infection are subtle in young children. The symptoms are:

  • Pulling or tugging at the ear
  • Holding the ear or scratching it
  • Irritability
  • Drainage from the ear that is thick and yellow
  • Fever
  • Ear Pain
  • Vomiting
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Trouble hearing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Hearing loss
  • Neck pain
  • Headache

Solutions and options

There are some things that you can do to avoid an ear infection in children. These are called preventive measures. You should keep the child away from areas where there is a lot of cigarette smoke and you should not smoke around your child. Cigarette smoke irritates the Eustatchian tube and clean lead to blockages or malfunctions. You can also prevent an ear infection by avoiding exposure to germs. Do not spend a prolonged period of time around a sick person and always wash yours and your child’s hands.

There are two different ways to approach treating an ear infection. Home treatment for an ear infection involves over the counter medication, such as Tylenol or Advil, to relieve the pain and decrease swelling. If you give a baby or small child these types of medicines, consult your doctor for the recommended dosage. If the symptoms persist, or the child develops a fever, you should consult a doctor.

Medical treatment for ear infections typically involves prescription antibiotics. If there is a risk of the child developing more serious complications, or if the child is extremely sick, the doctor may have to perform additional tests and treatment. In cases where the child has recurring ear infections, surgery may be performed to insert tubes into the ear to drain the fluid.

If you think your child has an ear infection, consult one of our caring, experienced pediatric ear specialists. The doctor will help you find a solution to your child’s symptoms.