Is your child’s ear hurting? It could be an ear infection. Children are more likely than adults to get ear infections.
What is an ear infection?
There are different types of ear infections. Middle ear infection (acute otitis media) is an infection in the middle ear.
Another condition that affects the middle ear is called otitis media with effusion. It occurs when fluid builds up in the middle ear without being infected and without causing fever, ear pain, or pus build-up in the middle ear.
When the outer ear canal is infected, the condition is called swimmer’s ear, which is different from a middle ear infection.
A middle ear infection may be caused by:
- Bacteria, like Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae —the two most common bacterial causes
- Viruses, like those that cause colds or flu
Common symptoms of middle ear infection in children can include:
- Ear pain
- Fussiness or irritability
- Rubbing or tugging at an ear
- Difficulty sleeping
When to Seek Medical Care
See a doctor if your child has:
- A fever of 102°F or higher
- Pus, discharge, or fluid coming from the ear
- Worsening symptoms
- Symptoms of a middle ear infection that last for more than 2–3 days
- Hearing loss
A doctor will determine what type of illness your child has by asking about symptoms and doing a physical examination. Your doctor can make the diagnosis of a middle ear infection by looking inside your child’s ear to examine the eardrum and see if there is pus in the middle ear.
Antibiotics are often not needed for middle ear infections because the body’s immune system can fight off the infection on its own. However, sometimes antibiotics, are needed to treat severe cases right away or cases that last longer than 2–3 days.
For mild cases of middle ear infection, your doctor might recommend watchful waiting or delayed antibiotic prescribing.
- Watchful waiting: Your child’s doctor may suggest watching and waiting to see if your child needs antibiotics. This gives the immune system time to fight off the infection. If your child doesn’t feel better after 2–3 days of rest, extra fluids, and pain relievers, the doctor may write a prescription for an antibiotic.
- Delayed prescribing: Your child’s doctor may give an antibiotic prescription but suggest that you wait 2–3 days to see if your child is still sick before filling it.
How to Feel Better
Some ways to feel better—whether or not antibiotics are needed for an ear infection:
- Drink extra water or other fluids.
- Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve pain or fever. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about over-the-counter medicines that can help you feel better. Always use over-the-counter medicines as directed.
You can help prevent ear infections by doing your best to stay healthy and keep others healthy, including:
- Receive recommended vaccines, such as flu vaccine and pneumococcal vaccine. Pneumococcal vaccine protects against a common cause of middle ear infections, Streptococcus pneumonia.
- Clean your hands.
Where To Go
If you suspect you or your child has an ear infection, our dedicated team at Platte River Medical Clinic is here to help! To schedule an appointment click here.