Middle Ear Infection in Children: Ultimate Guide

Ear infections are quite common in children between 6 months and 3 years age. An ear infection occurs in the middle ear. The middle ear gets inflamed because of accumulation of bacteria that happens when the fluid secreted from the ear gets trapped.  There are three types of middle ear infections. Ear infections are generally curable and not contagious like other infections.

Symptoms of middle ear infection in children are fever, fluid coming out of the ear, sleeping trouble and many more. These symptoms are common and indicate ear infection. Infections of the ear can be treated with antibiotics or pain relievers. Ear infection can be prevented with vaccination against some virus and other methods. Keep reading to know all about middle ear infection in children.

Causes, Signs, Symptoms, Treatment & Home Remedies for Middle Ear Infection in Kids

What is middle ear infection?

Middle Ear infection is known as the inflammation of the middle ear caused by bacteria. The middle ear secretes fluid that gets drained to the back of the throat. Sometimes the fluid gets trapped in the middle ear, the part behind the eardrum. This causes bacteria to accumulate in the fluid. The infected liquid pushes against the eardrum and causes ear pain in children.

Causes

  • Common cold can cause ear infection in children. Common cold blocks the tube that drains the fluid secreted by the middle ear. This leads to the fluid accumulation.
  • Throat infection in children can also cause ear infection. Throat infection also blocks the Eustachian tube that leads to fluid retention in the eardrum.
  • Sometimes acid reflux can also lead to middle ear infection in children.
  • Some allergies can also cause the eustachian tube to swell and block the mucus from draining.
  • Upper respiratory infection also causes ear infection in children. The bacteria that cause respiratory infection can travel towards the ear and cause infection there.

Read more: Common Allergies Among Children

Why is ear infection common in children than adults?

  • Small children have lower immunity than adults. This is why they are more susceptible to infections more than adults.
  • The eustachian tubes that drain secretions from the middle ear to the throat are smaller in children. This makes the infected fluid drainage more difficult in children and causes ear infection.
  • The tubes are also more level and narrower in children. This makes them more vulnerable to ear infections.
  • Excessive use of pacifier in children also causes ear infections. The pacifier blocks the air reaching the middle ear and leads to infections.
  • When children stop breastfeeding this can also make them vulnerable to ear infections. Breast milk is a protection against various diseases for children.

Signs and symptoms

  • Runny nose is a sign of ear infection. It is similar to common cold and can be difficult to distinguish between the two. Check with a pediatrician to be sure.
  • Coughing is another symptom that is similar to common cold. Consult a pediatrician.
  • Fever is another common sign of ear infection in children. If your baby has fever immediately notify a doctor.
  • Excessive crankiness all the day in infants can be an indication of ear infection. Your baby might be having pain in the ear and being fussy as a result. Take your child to a doctor immediately.
  • Constant tugging at the ear is another sign of ear infection. If your baby is pulling at his ear all the time, consult a pediatrician.
  • Inability to sleep at night is one symptom. In fact your baby might start crying whenever you make him lie down. Lying cause the fluid to push at his eardrums and cause pain.
  • Sometimes fluid may spill from his ear. This is most definitely a sign of ear infection. But it may or may not happen in all cases.
  • Your baby might be having trouble with balancing himself if he has ear infections. This is a sign that not many are aware of. Take your child to a doctor in that case.
  • Hearing problem is another sign of ear infection. This is does not happen in normal ear infection and is an acute problem.

Treatment

Antibiotics are preferred mode of treating bacterial ear infection in children.  There are mild and strong antibiotics that are suggested by doctors to teach ear infection from bacteria. Virus infection in the ear cannot be treated by antibiotics. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggest against using antibiotics for children for 72 hours at least as ear infections clear on its own.

Surgery is rarely used to treat ear infection in children. Sometimes if the situation is critical and the eardrum has been perforated, then surgery might be required. Most cases of eardrum perforation due to infections heal on their own.

Home Remedies

  • Applying warm compress on your child’s ear for 15 minutes can reduce the inflammation and ear pain.
  • Applying few drops of warm olive oil on your child’s ear can also remedy the infection. Consult your doctor before doing this home remedy.
  • Keeping your baby hydrated can also remedy ear infections in children.
  • Keep your baby’s head on an elevated position against a pillow. This might help in the pain and swelling.

Prevention

  • Keep breastfeeding your little one for a year at the least. Breastfeeding helps prevent various infections in small children.
  • If you feed your baby with a feeding bottle, keep his head in an elevated position. This prevents the liquid to drain to the eustachian tube.
  • Do not let your baby get exposed to secondhand smoke.
  • Vaccinate your baby against all the diseases like flu. This will prevent ear infections as well.
  • Keep your child in a healthy environment. Keep him away from germs as much as possible.

Conclusion

Middle ear infections are very common in infants and children below the age of 5. Ear infections can be very painful for your child. It can make your baby cranky and interfere with his sleep. Ear infections are easily curable. Generally the infections clear without medication. Sometimes antibiotics can be necessary. Surgery is rarely required to treat ear infections in children. Home remedies are also effective. But ear infections can become serious and cause meningitis and other complications. If your baby has ear infection immediately notify a pediatrician.

References

http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199901283400402

https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/ear-infections-children