Heather Gomes, M.D.
Boys Town Ear, Nose & Throat Institute
During the cold and flu season, many children will develop an ear infection due to fluid trapped in the middle ear. Most children will have at least one ear infection, but over one fourth of these children will have repeated ear infections. Children are most likely to have ear infections between the ages of 6 months and 2 years, but they continue to be a common childhood illness until the age of 8 years.
Symptoms of Ear Infections
- Irritability and poor sleep
- Trouble hearing
- Pulling at ear (in combination with the above symptoms)
- Yellow/foul smelling fluid draining from ear
Treating Ear Infections
- Antibiotics prescribed by your physician
- Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be used for pain relief. Refer to your doctor on the correct dosage of over-the-counter medications.
- Follow-up exams are very important to make certain the middle ear fluid has resolved.
Persistent middle ear fluid may result in temporary hearing loss, which may increase the risk for delayed speech development. If this is your child’s second or third ear infection, your doctor may prescribe a stronger medication to eliminate the bacteria. If the antibiotics do not clear the infection or a child has reoccurring ear infections, your physician my insert tympanostomy tubes as another alternative. These tubes help drain the fluid from the ear and are typically in place for one year and will eventually come out on their own. Ear tube surgery usually decreases the frequency of ear infections and during an infection allows the fluid to drain—decreasing temporary hearing loss and pain. Antibiotic ear drops may be used to treat ear infections reducing the use of oral antibiotics.
Boys Town Ear, Nose and Throat Institute recommends a follow-up exam with your doctor 2-3 weeks after your initial visit. Ear infections are less common as your child gets older. They also are less common in children who are not in day care.
Preventing Ear Infections
- Protect your child from second-hand tobacco smoke.
- Reduce your child's exposure to colds during the first two years of life as much as possible.
- Breast-feed your baby during the first 6 to 12 months of life.
- Bottle feed your child at a 45 degree angle.
- Discuss any significant symptoms of reflux such as excessive spitting up or stomach pain with your physician as reflux is a risk factor for recurrent ear infections.
For more information on treating and preventing ear infections, log on to www.boystownpediatrics.org.