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Ear Infections Cause, Symptoms and Treatment

​​​​​​​​​During the cold and flu season, ear infections in children are a common affliction. Ear infections develop in children and adults 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 crying
  • Difficulty sleeping or poor sleep
  • Fever
  • Trouble Hearing
  • Imbalance
  • Pulling at ear (in combination with the above symptoms)
  • Yellow/foul smelling fluid draining from ear
  • Ear pain

How to Treat Ear Infections

  • Antibiotics prescribed by your physician
  • Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be used for pain relief. Ask your doctor for the correct dosage of over-the-counter medications.
  • ​​Follow-up exams are very important to make certain the middle ear fluid has resolved.

How to Prevent 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.

Persistent and Reoccurring Ear Infections

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 antibiotics do not clear the infection, your physician my insert tympanostomy tubes as another alternative. Ear 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.​

  • Ear Infections

    Ear infections are most common during the cold and flu season. Some inflammation or obstruction of the nose blocks the station tube in the back and fluid builds up in the ear and sometimes that fluid in the ear drum can get infected.

    How common are ear infections?

    Fairly common in children under 2 years of age but can continue throughout childhood and some have problems that persist in adulthood.

    What are the symptoms of ear infections?

    Often kids will develop a fever, ear pain where they are pulling or yanking on the ear, irritable, fussy, not eating or drinking well, not sleeping well, sometimes they will get drainage out of the ear that is yellow or foul smelling. In adults, it’s ear pain, usually the ear feels full, they don’t hear well, they can have a fever.

    How are ear infections treated?

    Often ear infections will clear with antibiotics. If there is concern for hearing loss, persistent fluid, then for a sheer number of infections, placing ear tubes or pressure equalizing tubes is another option. They decrease the number of infections and the pain and symptoms that go along with each ear infection.

    When should you consult an ENT physician about ear infections?

    Very frequent or recurrent ear infections, such as getting 4-6 ear infections a year. Any concern for hearing loss or speech delay should prompt at least a basic hearing evaluation. The sooner you catch it, the better it is for the child and the quicker you can restore their hearing back to normal if possible.

Ear, Nose and Throat