Posts tagged Ear Infection Children
Practically all children have one or more ear infections by the time they reach the age of five, but if those ear infections recur again and again, or if your child is subject to fluid buildup, your pediatrician may recommend that your child should have ear tubes installed. It’s dangerous to have fluid buildup in your child’s ears because it can eventually lead to hearing loss, and cause considerable discomfort as well. When your child doesn’t respond to other treatments for ear infections, ear tubes just might be the answer, and they can prevent the possibility of incurring long-term problems with hearing.
Why are There so Many ear Infections?
Ear infections occur when bacteria or viruses accumulate in your child’s middle ear, which is situated right behind the eardrums. Children are far more prone to developing ear infections, simply because their bodies are still growing and changing, at least far more than adult bodies are.
The way that fluids drain out of the ears is via the Eustachian tubes, and for kids, those tubes are smaller and nearly parallel to the ground, which means gravity has less effect and the ears won’t drain very well, even if your child is healthy. When Eustachian tubes get filled with mucus, often as a result of catching a cold, that lack of drainage becomes crucial, because bacteria can thrive in the Eustachian tubes, and that can lead to the development of infections.
Of course, for some kids, it just happens a lot more than for others, but it occurs far more with children as a general group, than it does for adults. When an infection develops in the Eustachian tubes, the fluid has a greater opportunity to build up in that portion of the middle ear, creating much more pressure and pain than normal. This is when you will observe such symptoms as fluid dribbling from the ears, difficulty sleeping, tugging at the ears, balance troubles, and much more fussiness or irritability than usual, particularly when your child is laying down.
When Does an ear Infection Require Treatment?
Initially, your doctor will probably await further developments, to see if the infection subsides on its own, particularly if it was triggered by a virus. In other situations, it may be necessary to treat the child with antibiotics in order to kill an infection. However, there are a great many children who develop infections that simply won’t clear up on their own.
For the most part, these won’t really lead to any lasting hearing problems, but if ear infections occur frequently, you may run the risk of developing hearing loss, experiencing delays with speech development and with social skills, physical holes or tears in the eardrum, and it’s even possible that an infection could spread throughout the head.
How can ear Tubes Help?
Some of the best candidates for ear tubes are children who routinely suffer three or more ear infections during a six-month period or those who go through a total of four or more in the course of a single year. Because this kind of frequency represents a danger to long-term health, it may be advisable to thwart the problem in its early stages.
Other good candidates for ear tubes are children who routinely experience fluid buildup, which then causes hearing loss, whether or not an infection has taken place. If your child has been given medication over a long period of time, or if several different programs of treatment have been prescribed without success, those are other scenarios where ear tubes may be the most viable treatment option.
What Exactly are ear Tubes?
The physical appearance of ear tubes is similar to that of a very, very small drinking straw, which means they are circular, hollow, and most often manufactured with plastic or metal. To insert the ear tube, your doctor will make a tiny opening in the child’s eardrum and then put the tube in, so that air is allowed to penetrate to the interior of the middle ear.
This allows airflow into the ear and it maintains even pressure between the inner ear and the exterior environment. It also allows for better drainage, so between the better drainage and the better airflow, the fluid has much less chance to build up, and that means bacteria don’t have a chance to accumulate and develop into infections.
For those children who have experienced hearing loss as a result of fluid buildup, the situation is cleared up almost immediately after ear tubes have been inserted. Children who have experienced delays in learning or social skills, generally improve within weeks of having the tubes inserted.
For some children, ear tubes are meant to be a temporary solution, and these will remain in place for between six and 18 months. After that time, they’ll simply fall out harmlessly on their own, with no intervention necessary. Other types of ear tubes are designed to be more of a permanent solution, and these generally need to be removed by a skilled doctor, if removal becomes necessary. In either case, once tubes have been removed, the eardrum opening gradually closes up all on its own.
A great many children wear ear tubes these days, and all of them are benefiting to some extent by doing so. They are safe, effective, and can make a very positive difference in your child’s life.
Ear infections are simply inflammations of the middle ear, and they are generally triggered by bacteria which accumulate behind the eardrum. People of any age can be subject to ear infections, but children have them at a more frequent rate than do adults. By the time of a child’s third birthday, five out of six children will have had an ear infection at least once, and that makes it the single most common cause for children to be taken to a doctor.
One of the problems with this is that some children are just too young to verbalize what they are experiencing, and can’t really tell you that their ear hurts. In this situation, a parent should be on the lookout for symptoms that characterize an ear infection, such as pulling at the ears, balance problems, fevers, difficulty with sleeping, excessive crying, drainage from the ears, and non-responsiveness to quiet sounds.
Causes of Ear Infections
One of the most common causes of an ear infection in a child is an upper respiratory infection, a cold, or a sore throat. In the case of the upper respiratory infection, related bacteria can easily spread to the middle ear, and with a cold, the virus can be drawn into the middle ear as an offshoot of the main infection. In any of these cases, fluid begins to build up around the eardrum.
The reason that children are more susceptible to ear infections than adults relates to the fact that the eustachian tubes in a child’s ear are smaller than an adult’s, and that makes it more difficult for any fluids to exit the middle ear, even in the absence of any kind of infection. When those eustachian tubes become swollen by a cold or other illness, drainage may slow down to almost nothing, and blockage will be the likely result. Complicating matters, the immune system for a child is not nearly as developed or robust as an adult’s, and that makes it much harder for children to fend off the effects of any kind of infection.
Diagnosing a Middle Ear Infection
When you take your child to see a doctor about a possible ear infection, the doctor’s first question will be about your child’s recent medical conditions. Your doctor will try and find out if your child has had a sore throat or a head cold recently. Then the doctor will ask about any of the other common symptoms associated with an ear infection, to see if your child has been experiencing any of these. After gaining this kind of information, your doctor will probably use an instrument called an otoscope, which is a lighted instrument that can see inside the eardrum to determine whether it is red and/or swollen with an infection. If this is inconclusive, your doctor might then use a diagnostic test known as tympanometry to measure eardrum sensitivity at various points.
Treatment for Middle Ear Infections
One of the most common treatments for a middle ear infection is an antibiotic called amoxicillin, which is generally prescribed over a period of 7 to 10 days. If your child is experiencing an inordinate amount of pain or discomfort, your doctor may also recommend pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, and possibly even eardrops which can be delivered directly into the ear.
In cases where an ear infection cannot be definitively diagnosed, your doctor may want to adopt a wait-and-see attitude about the condition, to see if it worsens into an actual ear infection. This is more common in very young children, between the ages of six months and two years. However, even when the wait-and-see approach is adopted, your doctor will probably ask to have your child returned within three days to check on whether symptoms have worsened.
If definitive diagnosis is still lacking, it is likely that a program of antibiotic treatment will be initiated, to be sure it gets no worse. When antibiotics are prescribed, it’s very important that the child takes the prescribed dosage throughout the entire period of the prescription, so that bacteria do not have the chance to develop resistance to the medication.
Preventing Middle Ear Infections
There is no rock-solid way to prevent middle ear infections in children, and the best approach that can be adapted calls for limiting the risk factors which may trigger an ear infection. Vaccinating your child against influenza is one good track to take, and limiting your child’s exposure to children known to be sick is a good idea as well, although obviously this is not 100% enforceable.
Good hygiene for everyone in the household is important: for instance washing hands and sneezing into your elbow, to help prevent the spread of germs to your child. It’s not a good idea for anyone in the household to be smoking, and statistics bear out the fact that where at least one person at home smokes, there are more ear infections than in smokeless homes. One last method of limiting the risk factor for developing ear infections is to make sure that your infant is never put down for a long period of time, such as overnight, with a bottle in hand.
Swimmer’s ear is something of a misnomer since you don’t have to be splashing around the pool or swimming to get the kind of ear infection attributed to swimmer’s ear. This ear infection is of a specific type which begins as a mild, barely noticeable itching or redness, which gradually escalates into an inflamed condition that can become very tender to the touch, and can eventually even disrupt your hearing.
You can contract swimmer’s ear infection in any number of ways, including swimming in some body of water, but also by taking a bath or shower, or even by cleaning your ears out with a cotton swab.
Causes of Swimmer’s Ear
The formal medical name for swimmer’s ear infection is otitis externa, and it occurs when water gets trapped in your ear. When that water is allowed to stay there, bacteria and sometimes fungi can grow in the ear and multiply, which then leads to an infection near the opening of the ear.
There are other causes of swimmer’s ear as well, which are not brought about by any exposure to water. If a cut or scrape occurs just inside the ear canal, that can also trigger the formation of the bacteria necessary to create an infection.
Aggressive cleaning with cotton swabs is another relatively common cause of swimmer’s ear since the swab can scratch the skin inside the ear, and bacteria can begin growing and multiplying as a result. In fact, people with excessive amounts of earwax are prone to developing swimmer’s ear, as are people bothered by eczema, which is a chronic skin condition.
Symptoms of Swimmer’s Ear
As mentioned, the first indication of swimmer’s ear is usually a mild form of itching, often accompanied by redness and swelling around the ear. When the infection begins to progress, the area becomes more inflamed and more painful. Many people who have contracted swimmers ear report that it’s extremely painful, far beyond what you might expect from such a seemingly simple medical condition.
Other symptoms can develop if swimmer’s ear is left untreated, some of which can be quite serious. Fluid build-up in the ear, swollen lymph nodes, a swollen or closed up ear, and a high fever are all symptoms that can result from an untreated ear infection. This damage is not permanent and will subside once the infection is cleared up with medication.
Treatment for Swimmer’s Ear
Someone who has contracted swimmer’s ear infection should take a pain reliever like Ibuprofen if the patient cannot see a doctor immediately. In some milder cases, the pain and discomfort will subside on its own, but if that doesn’t happen within just a few days, it’s always advisable to make an appointment with a physician. If you can’t get an appointment to see your doctor for treatment, you should try to get into an urgent care facility and have the infected ear examined.
To confirm a diagnosis of swimmer’s ear, a physician will take a fluid sample from the area around the ear, and the first treatment option will usually be antibiotic eardrops. If these don’t clear up the problem in a short timeframe, an oral antibiotic is likely to be the next option.
There are times however, when this line of treatment is ineffective and something else has to be tried. If ear antibiotics don’t work, it’s usually because there has been so much debris or fluid built up in the ear canal, that antibiotic eardrops cannot penetrate the obstruction. If this is the case, your doctor may attempt to clear the debris out of the ear canal by using a vacuum apparatus.
Once the buildup of debris has been dissipated, antibiotic eardrops will again probably be effective. One reason why oral antibiotics could possibly be ineffective as a means of treatment, is if the infection wasn’t really caused by bacteria in the first place, but was triggered by a fungus.
Preventing Swimmer’s Ear Infections
You don’t have to avoid swimming, bathing, or showering in order to avoid swimmer’s ear infections. One of the most effective ways of ensuring that water doesn’t become trapped in the inner ear is to wear earplugs when swimming. After showers or baths, you can lean your body toward the side which feels like it has water trapped, and shake your head somewhat vigorously. This will usually dislodge any inner ear water, and clear out the ear canals. It’s also advisable to limit your cotton swab cleaning of the ears as much as possible, so you don’t scratch the interior skin and trigger an infection.
A middle ear infection, also known as ‘otitis media,’ is an infection or inflammation that occurs inside the eardrums. This can cause sinus issues, among others. Generally speaking, people with middle ear infections pick them up from colds, coughs, sore throats, and other respiratory problems. Of course, the word ‘chronic’ suggests this is an ongoing problem, which is why we want to address the treatment side of things today.
With ear infections, doctors like to wait at least two months to three months before classifying it as ‘chronic.’ ‘Acute’ ear infections usually only last for a few weeks. Typically, those with an acute infection will experience fluids accumulating behind the eardrum.
These fluids can remain behind the eardrum for a few months. If the fluid stays in place for a prolonged period or there’s some form of negative pressure, the patient will continue to see problems long into the future. Over time, the middle ear may develop a hole in the eardrum, leading to more severe issues. Doctors talk about middle ear infections in terms of months as opposed to days or weeks because chronic middle ear infections typically start without pain or any real symptoms. As time goes on, the ears may pop after sustained pressure and result in hearing loss.
Before talking about the treatments and what you can do to alleviate the issue, we should note that infants and young children are particularly prone to middle ear infections. In fact, three in every four children will experience a middle ear infection before their third birthday. As the canal that connects the back of the nose/throat to the middle ear, the ‘Eustachian tube’ is more horizontal and much shorter when children are younger. For the microorganisms that cause infection, a shorter tube allows them to enter the middle ear faster. In combination with a young child’s weaker immune system, and children find it hard to stave off.
Treating Middle Ear Infections
In the majority of cases, antibiotics will be the first course of treatment. Even though there’s no real evidence to suggest their effectiveness in treating otitis media, since most middle ear infections are viral, they can remove various symptoms and make it easier for the infection to resolve itself. Antibiotics usually fix the problem in around five days. Doctors often prescribe amoxicillin, allowing you to get back on your feet in no time.
After medication, many children and adults require grommets, which are also an option if the middle ear infection doesn’t clear up immediately. Grommets are tiny tubes placed inside the eardrum that aid with drainage. As we discovered earlier, the problem worsens when the fluid doesn’t drain away, so grommets could stop the negative spiral of events that makes otitis media worse.
Under general anesthesia, these grommets can be installed in around 15 minutes and are left inside the ear for several months. With the eardrum open, the middle ear infection can heal fully, and the grommet will eventually be pushed out. You typically won’t feel any pain, and the majority of grommets are removed between six months and a year after being installed.
If the problem is too severe for either of these solutions, surgery is recommended if there aren’t any other solutions available. With this option, the idea will be to remove the infected tissue and the areas causing the recurring pain and discomfort. Once these problem areas have been eliminated, an intact eardrum can then recreate a middle ear space as found in healthy ears. Hearing can then be restored.
At first, you may find it strange that hearing is the last thing to be restored, but the first two steps are pivotal to stop the infection from returning. If these two steps aren’t met at the beginning, anything else done to improve hearing will be futile. If the infection comes back after the hearing is restored, hearing can be lost again so this is why the order of priority has been developed in this way.
In most cases, the problem will clear itself up with the help of antibiotics. If this doesn’t work, your doctor should discuss more great solutions so you can move forward with your life without worrying about infection and discomfort in your ears.
“My Ear Hurts” is a statement that parents often dread. Immediately, you think ear infection. However, it is important that you don’t jump to conclusions. Before you start panicking, here are a few facts about ear infections that you should know to not only help your child but know when to seek help from a doctor or otolaryngologist.
Most illnesses are caused by either bacterium of viruses. The eustachian tubes is a part of the body that drains fluids from the middle ear. When it is swollen due to infection, it doesn’t function properly. Fluid is instead pulled into the middle ear, causing bacteria to grow.
Common Symptoms of an Ear Infection
Symptoms are your number one indicator of an ear infection. So, it’s crucial that you know what to look for. If you are worried, then check to see if your child has any of the following:
- The common cold.
- Irritation during the day or night.
- Hearing loss.
- Trouble laying down straight.
- Blood or pus in the ear.
- Ear pain.
When to Call Your Doctor
These symptoms are serious. Blood or pus coming out of the ear probably means a ruptured ear drum. The ear drums swell and can burst, especially if your child messes with it. Now, this can heal, but a professional can tell you what to do so it heals properly.
If the pain is too great or your child cannot hear, then visit your doctor or an otolaryngologist. You shouldn’t wait for their temperature to go down. Ear infection can also be the cause of a fever and stiff neck. Home treatment only works so much, and very little if your child’s condition is severe.
Hopefully, this helps you find the signs of an ear infection. Next week, find out how to prevent an ear infection from occurring.
New research, led by investigators at the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), found that dizziness and balance problems are common among U.S children. Dizziness and balance issues could be symptoms of greater underlying issues. If your child is suffering from any of these symptoms, the findings in this research might benefit you.
What makes this research different from previous studies on the subject is that this is the first large-scale survey that has national representation. The study analyzed data from 11,000 children, ages 3 to 17. The data was based on parents’ responses to the survey, which asked if their child suffered from indicators such as vertigo, poor balance problems when standing up, clumsiness/poor coordination, frequent falls, and fainting or light-headedness.
Researchers found that more than 1 in 20 (nearly 3.3 million) children have dizziness and balance problems. When it comes to which children display higher incidences of dizziness and balance problems, girls tend to have more problems (5.7 percent) compared to boys (5.0 percent), and non-Hispanic white children have more problems (6.1 percent) than non-Hispanic black children (4.3 percent).
James F. Battey, Jr., M.D., Ph.D, director of the NIDCD and a pediatrician states, “These findings suggest that dizziness and balance problems are fairly common among children, and parents and providers should be aware of the impact these problems can have on our children.” This is important news for parents because Dr. Battey goes on to say, “Parents who notice dizziness and balance problems in their children should consult a health care provider to rule out a serious underlying condition.”
Underlying Causes of Dizziness and Balance Problems
Some of the underlying causes of dizziness and balance problems in children include:
- Neurological problems,
- Ear infections,
- Head or neck injuries or concussions
- Developmental motor coordination disorder,
- Genetic causes,
- Metabolic problems such as hypoglycemia,
- Prescription medication or drugs,
- Severe headaches or migraines,
- Malformation of the ear, and
- Vision problems.
Parents should check up on their children’s condition, especially if they have hearing problems. Children with hearing problems are twice as likely to suffer from dizziness or balance issues. Even worse, dizziness and balance problems are related to impairments that limit a child’s ability to crawl, walk, run or play; cause frequent headaches or migraines; and lead to developmental delays. The child might also have a history of seizures in the last 12 months.
As a plea that more research needs to be done on the subject, Howard J. Hoffman, M.A., co-author of the study and director of epidemiology and statistics at the NIDCD states, “Dizziness and balance problems in children continue to be an understudied area, and we hope that this analysis leads to a better understanding of the scope and risk factors associated with these issues.”
For children with a common middle-ear problem, a new study reports that a simple treatment with a nasal balloon may diminish issues of hearing loss and avoid the unnecessary use of antibiotics, according to a study published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).
Common to young children is their developing otitis media with effusion, aka “glue ear.” This condition occurs when the middle ear fills with thick fluid that may affect the development in hearing. Currently, no symptoms manifest themselves, so parents most often take their children with hearing difficulties to see a doctor. In 2004 in the US, 2.2 million were diagnosed with otitis media with effusion, costing an estimated $4 billion.
“Unfortunately, all available medical treatments for otitis media with effusion such as antibiotics, antihistamines, decongestants and intranasal steroids are ineffective and have unwanted effects, and therefore cannot be recommended,” writes Dr. Ian Williamson, Primary Care and Population Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton, United Kingdom, with coauthors.
In the study published in the CMAJ, researchers from the United Kingdom surveyed a randomized control trial to determine if auto-inflation with a nasal balloon could be used on a large scale in order to see if children could inflate a balloon in each nostril within a primary care setting. The results were surprising in the effectiveness of such a procedure, although shown only in small trials.
“Autoinflation is a simple, low-cost procedure that can be taught to young children in a primary care setting with a reasonable expectation of compliance,” write the authors. “We have found use of autoinflation in young, school-aged children with otitis media with effusion to be feasible, safe and effective in clearing effusions, and in improving important ear symptoms, concerns and related quality of life over a 3-month watch-and-wait period.”
The nasal balloon has been around for decades, known as a home remedy. This treatment is similar to popping your nose when your ears get clogged on airplanes.
The researchers suggest that this treatment should be used more widely in children over age 4 to manage otitis media with effusion and help treat the associated hearing loss.
What’s important about this DIY therapy for autoinflation is that it’s a nondrug intervention, and that it’s underrepresented in research and clinical practice. If you’re child suffers from otitis media, ask you doctor about this simple procedure that has been around for decades.
While there are barriers to using nondrug therapies, in the case of autoinflation, doctors need to know about other effective techniques; how they are done and how to instruct patients and families in how to use it.
Avoiding a Summertime Ear Infection: Summertime Isn’t Only Fun in the Sun
Summer is here, and so is the amount of time children and adults alike spend in the pool. This increase in the time spent floating around in the cool water is appealing, that is, until you are faced with swimmer’s ear. What is swimmer’s ear? What measures can you take for avoiding a summertime ear infection like this? What are the treatment options if one does have it? Here are some answers to these common questions.
Swimmer’s ear is caused when water is trapped in the ear canal. Bacteria forms and an infection is born. One of the reasons that the summer season sees an increase in the number of swimmer’s ear cases is because people are spending far more time in the water. This is especially true for children. However, swimmer’s ear can occur even after a bath or shower. This outer ear infection is not contagious but it can cause discomfort or pain.
Knowing how the infection occurs can help you from getting it. Of course, limiting your time spent in the water is one way to do it. But what’s the fun in that when the sun is shining? A better way to prevent the problem is to make sure ears are nice and dry after swimming, bathing, or showering. Removing excess moisture is the best way to keep swimmer’s ear away. Using a swimming cap and ear plugs is also effective, and this strategy is highly recommended for those who are more avid swimmers.
If the infection is in the outer ear, it is much easier to treat. Moreover, symptoms will generally be on the mild side. If the ear is tugged, and there is pain, it usually means the infection is in the ear canal. This indicates a condition that will be a little more difficult to treat. A visit to your ear, nose, and throat doctor will determine if the infection is indeed swimmer’s ear. A prescription for antibiotic ear drops and possibly a round of oral antibiotics is usually needed to quickly clear up this type of infection.
Everyone wants to enjoy the summer to the full. By taking a few simple precautions for avoiding a summertime ear infection will insure that you can swim with impunity. More importantly, you can focus on having fun.
Is Ear Tube Surgery Worth the Benefits?
When a child has fluid in their middle ear, parents are faced with a big decision. Do they choose to take the risk of ear tube surgery and put in ear tubes or do they wait and see? New research is causing doctors to reconsider their positions on this subject.
Researchers looked at cases of children who suffered from otitis media with effusion, or OME, and subsequently who had ear tube surgery. They found that while this procedure improved hearing for a time and relieved some of the pain, putting in ear tubes, in the long run, did not amount to the effects they were hoping for. The improvements in hearing ability as a result of ear tube surgery only lasted less than a year.
Fluid in the middle ear can cause pain and hearing loss, but the fluid itself does not carry an infection. OME affects most children and has at least one case in their childhood years. It is the leading cause for ear tube surgery. One technique is to make a small cut and insert a tube to relieve pain by draining fluid and decreasing pressure. At times this procedure is coupled with another where tissue is removed from the throat. Treatment results were seen to last up to two years. The conclusion of the case review was that while these types of procedures can have positive short-term effects, they do not really make a difference in the long-term development of speech and hearing.
When weighing their options for ear tube surgery, parents should consider the possible positive effects and the short-term improvements in their child’s life against the possible risks that come with undergoing surgery. In the studies, researchers were also hoping to find what the effects of these types of procedures would be on adults, but unfortunately the results were inconclusive.
Ear infections can be extremely painful. It’s easy to know when one of your children has one if he or she is old enough to speak. But what if it is an infant or very young child that you are concerned about? Here are some signs to look for that can help you to identify an ear infection in an infant.
Is the child increasingly irritable? While this can be a symptom of many different conditions, when combined with the other symptoms that follow, it points to an ear infection. For example, pulling at one or both ears is a telltale sign of an ear infection. Your baby may also experience difficulty sleeping. Fever can occur. Fluid may also leak from the ear that is infected.
If your child is old enough to crawl or walk, you may notice balance problems which occur as a result of the ear infection. Try whispering to the baby on the side where the infection seems to be. Oftentimes an ear infection will cause diminished hearing. It may also affect the appetite of the child.
If your child does seem to have an ear infection, do not delay in seeking medical attention. Many more serious conditions can occur if an ear infection goes untreated. The infection could grow more serious and spread to the brain. Temporary hearing loss related to the infection can become permanent. Permanent hearing damage can also lead to speech problems.
The doctor will usually prescribe an antibiotic and may also give you ear drops for your child. Be sure to complete whatever treatment is provided, including any follow-up visits that are scheduled. Ear infections in children frequently recur, and it may take more than one antibiotic to do the job. Severe cases where infections persist for several months may call for temporary tubes being placed in the Eustachian tubes to keep them open in order to alleviate pressure.