Otitis media or middle ear infections in children are quite common, especially among the age group ranging from 6 – 3 years. These are rarely serious or contagious but they can be annoying and painful. These usually occur when the child has already been having a cold for a few days.
What causes an ear infection?
Viruses or bacteria (germs) cause middle ear infections. The eustachian tube connects the middle ear with the back of the throat. Germs travel from the back of the throat when the eustachian tube is swollen from a cold, causing infection in the middle ear.
Who is at higher risk for ear infections?
- Children less than 5 years old, because they have shorter eustachian tubes.
- Children who attend daycare, because they tend to have more colds.
- Children with allergies.
- Children who are exposed to cigarette smoke. Smoke causes inflammation of the eustachian tube, making ear infections more likely.
- Children who were not breastfed. Breast milk has antibodies that help fight infections.
- Babies who are fed bottled milk, especially while they are lying down flat could be at a higher risk too. The milk can enter their Eustachian tube and then cause an inflammation which could significantly increase the risk of an infection happening. Therefore always remember to hold the child upright while feeding them milk in a bottle. Once they are old enough to hold the bottle on their own, give them a normal cup to drink milk in so they sit upright, avoid using sippy cup.
- Children with cleft palates, as their eustachian tubes are often inflamed.
How can you identify an ear infection?
Older children will usually complain of an earache. While younger children might not be able to say they have an earache, they may show the following symptoms;
- Fever without a clear reason
- Fussy moods
- Trouble with sleeping
- Constantly tug and pull at their ears
- Inability to hear quiet sounds
- Fluid drainage from ears
How is an ear infection diagnosed?
A doctor will insert a special light called an otoscope into the child’s ear and have a look at their ear drum or tympanic membrane. They are looking for fluid in the middle ear, the colour and position of the ear drum and will also monitor the pressure of the middle ear.
How is an ear infection treated?
Sometimes doctors will recommend you to stay for one to two days and observe whether the ear infection and fever goes away on its own. But most of the time they may prescribe antibiotics so that the infection is cleared easily without further discomfort to the child.