Disclosure :: This post is sponsored by Our Lady of Lourdes Women’s & Children’s Hospital and written by Dr. Lauren Bailey.
Ear Infections: Just the FAQs
Five out of 6 children will get at least one ear infection by age 3. A Lafayette pediatrician responds to some frequently asked questions from parents.
Children have smaller, less developed ear tubes, which makes it hard to keep harmful germs out. As a parent, it’s important to know how to help your child if he or she develops an ear infection. Here are the answers to common questions parents have about ear infections.
How Do I Know If My Child Has an Ear Infection?
Older children will be able to tell you if they have ear pain. It may be more difficult to notice an ear infection in a younger child. Watch if your child constantly rubs or tugs at one ear. Babies with ear infections may not eat as well or cry more than usual, especially at night and while nursing or sucking a bottle. Your doctor can confirm a diagnosis by looking for fluid and redness inside the ear.
How Are Ear Infections Treated?
Ear infections typically go away in a few days. Depending upon your child’s age, your pediatrician may suggest antibiotics or waiting for two to three days of treating symptoms before deciding to prescribe antibiotics. Either way, make sure your child gets plenty of rest and extra fluids. Children can take over-the-counter medicine for pain or fever; ask your pediatrician about the appropriate dose for your child. If your child has had several ear infections, make sure to talk to your doctor about any further treatment that may be necessary.
Should My Child Go to School with an Ear Infection?
Thankfully, ear infections are not contagious. Children can return to school or activities when they feel better and if their fever subsides.
Can I Prevent Future Ear Infections?
Some ear infections are difficult to prevent, but parents can take steps to help their children stay healthy.
- Make sure your child stays away from secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke can prevent their ear tubes from working properly, making them more prone for fluid buildup.
- Make sure to transition to a cup by 12 months of age and transition off of a pacifier as early as possible. The sucking motion of both drinking a bottle and sucking on a pacifier can cause the ear tubes to not work as well and lead to fluid buildup.
- Encourage your child to wash their hands regularly and avoid touching their face, which will lower their chances of viral infections and may also deter bacteria that cause ear infections.
- Keep your child up to date with their yearly vaccines and flu shots. This will help to boost his or her immune system and prevent easily preventable diseases.
- Breastfeeding can give an infant valuable protection against ear infections. If possible, breastfeed your child until he or she is at least 12 months.
When Should We Seek Specialized Care?
Parents who may have experienced sinus or ear-related issues in the past may have been referred by their primary care provider to see an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) doctor. With their child suffering from ear infections, they may consider taking their child to see the ENT doctor, also known as an otolaryngologist.
As a specialist, the pediatric otolaryngologist would be the doctor most qualified to treat issues related to your child’s ear, nose and throat. However, your child’s pediatrician is no stranger to the common illnesses children experience as they grow up, including ear infections. Discuss with your pediatrician whether a specialist is needed.
When Is It Time to Talk Ear Tube Surgery?
Ear tubes are tiny tubes that help an ear drain liquids that can build up and cause ear infections. The insertion of the tubes is a surgical process that requires a small incision in the eardrum for placement.
If the child is suffering from frequent ear infections or has trouble hearing due to buildup in the ear, your child’s pediatrician may suggest ear tube surgery.
How Many Ear Infections in One Year Before an ENT Is Needed?
Your child’s pediatrician may suggest your child be seen by a pediatric otolaryngologist if the ear infections are particularly common (approximately occurring every other month) or severe (causing hearing loss). Each child’s case will vary.
About the Author
Lauren Bailey, MD, is a pediatrician with Our Lady of Lourdes Women’s & Children’s Hospital. Discover more at LourdesRMC.com.