Ear infections in children

Caring For Our Kids

Aside from the common cold, ear infections are the most commonly diagnosed childhood illness in the U.S.

Most kids have had at least one ear infection by the age of three. It can be tough to decide if your child’s earache can be treated at home, or if it’s an ear infection that will require prescription medication. 

Signs and symptoms include whining, tugging or pulling at the ears, fever and trouble sleeping, according to Dr. Shannon Cohen with Children’s Hospital.

An ear infection is a bacterial infection of the middle ear — the space behind the eardrum. A child’s Eustachian tubes are shorter, more horizontal and narrower than adults. The adenoids are large in children and can interfere with the opening of the Eustachian tubes. 

Cohen says contributing factors exposure to cigarette smoke, bottle feeding and going to daycare.

To prevent ear infections, you should breastfeed for at least six months, prevent exposure to secondhand smoke and keep your child’s immunization schedule up-to-date.

A child who has chronic ear infections that do not get better easily, has signs of hearing loss or speech delay may be a candidate for tubes. These help ventilate the area behind the eardrum to keep pressure equalized to atmospheric pressure in the middle ear.

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