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Ear Infections 101


Ear Infections 101

Jane Emanuel, M.D.


Boys Town Ear, Nose & Throat Institute


When it comes to ear infections, it’s good to have a little bit of knowledge of the anatomy of the ears.


Outer ear infections, those are the ones that are commonly called swimmer’s ear. In the summertime, acute onset of pain after you’ve been in a pool. That’s an outer ear infection and usually something you’re going to need to see the doctor for.


Probably the one that we deal with more is the middle ear infections and that’s when the space behind the eardrum, basically the part we look in with an otoscope and say, yes there’s something going on there.


That’s the space behind the eardrum and it also has the Eustachian tube, which is the plumbing. So, that’s an infection in the space behind your eardrum. That’s called otitis media. That’s the one we deal with the most when we talk about antibiotics and tubes.


What are the symptoms of ear infections?


Symptoms of ear infections, probably the most common one is ear pain. In a baby, they can’t tell you that, so tugging at an ear, fussy, not sleeping well, irritable. Those are all common signs.


In babies especially, if they’re more fussy after they lie down, think about ears from that standpoint because ears tend to plug up a bit more when you lay down and it might bother them more when they’re actually ok when they’re up.


Fever is another common sign, especially in little kids. Older kids, often times, do not get a fever. In older kids it might be more of a hearing loss or a lot of times they’ll have pain.


Ear infections seems to be a rite of passage for kids. If your child hasn’t had an ear infection by the time they’re two, you’re probably in the lucky category.


When should you see a doctor?


You should see the doctor if there is any persistent pain. You can give your child, or you can take, a dose of Tylenol or Motrin and if that takes care of it and it doesn’t come back, then that’s probably something you don’t need to see the doctor for.


If you do that Tylenol or Motrin and as soon as it wears off you have pain again, then you should see them.


You should see the doctor for any severe pain, high temp that isn’t going away in a day or two. Basically, all the things you would take your child to the doctor for or what you would go to the doctor for in any case.


What are the treatment options?


Most commonly and again, we’re talking about otitis media, which is the infection behind the eardrum, usually for those you’re going to get an antibiotic and generally, you need to take some Tylenol and Motrin for the pain.

Ear Infections 101: What to Know About Ear Infections in Children

Ear infections can be called a rite of passage for children. Dr. Jane Emanuel, Board Certified Otolaryngologist at the Boys Town Ear, Nose & Throat Institute, explains what you need to know about ear infections.