Baby Suffering From Ear Infection? Here’s What You Should Do
Ear infections are one of the most common reasons why children are sent to the pediatrician’s clinic. They’re also the usual source of parents’ questions: How can I tell that my kid actually has an ear infection? What is its cause? And how can I prevent it? Parents also have heard about the newest advances and vaccines in treating ear infections. They want to know the best way to treat their children’s case.
If you’re one of those worried mothers that want to know more about what it is and how to end the problem a.s.a.p., read on.
What is an ear infection?
Ear infections are also known as otitis media. It’s a kind of infection of the middle ear—the area that has tiny bones which transmit sound to the inner ear from the eardrum. The middle ear also produces certain secretions that usually drain to the throat’s back through the eustachian tube.
Nevertheless, once the fluid fails to drain and starts to build up in the child’s middle ear, it forms a warm and moist environment where germs flock. The viruses and bacteria that try to invade this area are responsible for the crankiness, pain, and fever that give parents the signal that their child’s ear could be infected.
The anatomy of a baby’s structure is also another main reason why little usually suffer from ear troubles. Their eustachian tubes are less steeply angled than the adults’. This makes it more difficult for fluid to drain from their middle ear. Their tubes are shorter as well, which enables germs in the throat to travel easier towards the middle ear. The muscles which open the tube and allow the fluid to drain are also not yet fully developed in babies and toddlers. Their immune systems are also less mature. Thus, they couldn’t fight off infections as firmly as adults do. They then become more prone to respiratory infections (flu and colds) that can potentially lead to troublesome ear infections.
It’s not uncommon for babies and toddlers to experience ear infections. In fact, 90% of children have experienced at least one ear infection by the time they turn two years old. Children age 6- 18 months are also more prone to an ear infection.
The good thing is the rate of ear infections among children plummets after age 3, but there are still factors that can cause children three years old and above to suffer from ear infections.
For instance, frequent ear infections could be hereditary. The ability of your ear muscles to close and open can run in families. Kids with allergies could also be at risk of regular ear infections. The congestion resulted from dust and pollen exposure tends to block the Eustachian, disabling it to drain. When germs invade, an ear infection is likely. Down syndrome patients are also prone to ear infections. Their unusual anatomy could affect the eustachian tubes’ functions.
An ear infection may not always be simple for parents to diagnose. The symptoms can mimic the regular flu or cold and can vaguely appear. A cold virus enables the eustachian tubes’ entrance to swell, making it easier for fluid to be trapped and eventually infected.
The only means to be sure that your baby got an ear infection is to pay a visit to your pediatrician. If your baby is two-year-old or younger, take him to the doctor once his cold or discomfort remain after 2-3 days. If your baby has got the fever for two days, you can also consider going to the doctor on the 2nd day. However, if your infant who is four months old or younger gets a fever, seek doctor’s help immediately. If the doctor peeks in your baby’s ear to check for signs of ear infection, he is looking at his eardrum to see if it went red, bulging, or thick.
There are two main germ types that lead to infections: bacteria and viruses. Bacteria cause around 70% of ear infections; viruses are responsible for about 8-25% of them. The remaining cases could result from bacteria and viruses working at once to trigger the infection. An ear infection caused by a virus couldn’t be treated with antibiotics. However, bacterial infections could be cured by it.
For children who have never tried an ear infection or haven’t been on antibiotics for the last 30 days, the usually prescribed antibiotics are liquid amoxicillin—the pink and bubblegum-flavored one.
However, if your kid has been recently treated for an ear infection, it’s possible that he’s again infected with a strain of bacteria which is amoxicillin-resistant. In that case, use stronger antibiotics prescribed by your doctor. It could be Zithromax, Augmentin, or Biaxin.
Most children dislike the bad taste of antibiotics. It could be a challenge to get them take their med when they go cranky about it. If they don’t take the unflavored ones no matter what, try an injectable antibiotic or ceftriaxone instead.
After starting to take oral antibiotics, your kid will start feeling better in 2 or 3 days. However, you should complete the prescription. Bring your child to the doctor for follow-up checkup as well to ensure that the infection is finally cleared up.
Importance of Treatment
The physician can figure out if the infection is caused by bacteria or virus or both by removing some of the fluid from the middle ear with a tiny needle. It could take up to 48 hours to get the laboratory results. The parent usually needs a quicker feedback. There are some pediatricians who readily assume it as a bacterial infection and immediately treat it with antibiotics. For kids two years old and younger, immediate action is important.
Untreated ear infections could spread and lead to critical and fatal problems, like meningitis or brain abscess. Another rare yet critical complication is facial paralysis if the infection quickly spreads towards the facial nerves.
A mild yet the most common complication of untreated ear infection is a perforated eardrum. The fluid in the middle ear starts to build up till the pressure enables the eardrum to burst. Though it may sound scary to parents, the bursting could relieve the child’s pain since it lets the fluid drain from the middle ear. There are operations that can just heal naturally. However, there are also some serious cases that need surgery.
The fluid is likely to stay in the middle ear, and it could take some time before the fluid gets totally cleared. You have to pay subsequent visits to your doctor in order to ensure that the fluid gets totally drained. Usually, the fluid is flushed out in less than six months.
If the fluid in the middle ear is left neglected, it could lead to temporary hearing loss, which is particularly troublesome if your child is still learning to talk. Although there’s no long-term impact on a child’s language development, this case could mean you need to have your child ventilating or tympanostomy tubes. These small metal or plastic tubes are placed in your child’s eardrums in a minor surgery to help drain the fluid fast. His hearing will be back to normal once all the fluid are gone.
It is alarming for parents to see their children suffer from infections such as that of the ear. However, there’s no need to fret since the medical advancements today are already developed. As long as early detection and diagnosis are done, further complications will remain at bay.