flag image

Ear Infections in Children

What you need to know

Photo: Ear Infections in Children
May 2012

Your baby is pulling at her ear and is extremely fussy. You fear it's an ear infection. Again.

Sound familiar?

Ear infections are a common ailment in the first couple years of a child's life. Thankfully, most of the time, ear infections clear up by themselves.

"When it comes to ear infections, physicians often take a 'wait-and-see' approach because antibiotics aren't generally effective against viruses. We often recommend acetaminophen or ibuprofen as a first step to relieve the pain and reduce any fever," says Dean James Trigg, M.D., a pediatric otolaryngologist at the Ear, Nose and Throat Center at Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St.Vincent, the largest pediatric ENT program in Indiana.

"Ear infections that don't clear after a few days, or those that occur frequently, are often indicators that something more may need to be done," he says.

How many ear infections qualify as frequent?

Dr. Trigg defines "frequent" as three or more times in a six-month period. Additionally, one who requires more than two to three courses of antibiotics, should be further examined.

What causes recurring ear infections?

Children usually develop frequent ear infections for one of two key reasons:

• Their eustachian tubes (connecting the back of the nose to the middle ear) are shorter and more horizontal. "Because of their size and the way they lay, children's tubes can become a prime gathering place for bacteria and viruses," he explains.

• Their adenoids – located in the back of the upper throat and designed to help prevent sickness – become enlarged and irritate the opening of the eustachian tubes.

When should you see a physician?

As a rule of thumb, you should call your doctor if:

• Pain continues to increase

• Fever of 101°F or higher, with other signs of ear infection

• Fluid (pus or blood) is draining from the ear

• Symptoms continue after 48 hours of treatment with an antibiotic

Your doctor may test hearing as well as pressure in the middle ear. In more serious cases, and CT or MRI scan may be required as part of the diagnostic evaluation.

How are recurring ear infections treated?

In many cases, antibiotics or steroids can resolve the issue. Some children, however, may require tubes in their eardrums to improve airflow and prevent future buildup of fluid.

To schedule a consultation at the Ear, Nose and Throat Center at Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St.Vincent, call 317-338-6815.

Questions about your child's health?

If you have any questions – day or night – about your child's health, the free nurse advice line at Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St.Vincent is available 24/7/365 at 317.338.Kids. Or, visit on-line at KidsHealthLine.com.

Tags: In This Issue, Infant & Baby, Kids, Pediatric Health, Toddler

Comments ()
Childrens museum
Race for a Cure