Avoiding Childhood Ear Infections - PIH Health

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Published on January 15, 2015

Avoiding Childhood Ear Infections

Avoiding Childhood Ear Infections

Avoiding Childhood Ear InfectionsEar infections in children are the second most common childhood illness behind the common cold. An ear infection is an inflammation of the middle ear, usually caused by bacteria, that occurs when fluid builds up behind the eardrum. Anyone can get an ear infection, but children get them more often than adults. Ear infections are quite worrisome for parents, especially since it is not easy to tell if there is a true infection present.

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), five out of six children will have at least one ear infection by their third birthday. In fact, ear infections are the most common reason parents bring their child to a doctor. Children with ear infections usually have some sort of discomfort or pain in the ear.

Telltale signs of an ear infection:

  • Cold symptoms – ear infections are usually preceded by a cold
  • Fever
  • Fussiness – change in normal behavior
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Complaining of pain in the ear
  • Loss of appetite
  • Younger children may pull or tug on their ear

What to do if your child has an ear infection:

Shalini Bhargava MD, a pediatrician at the PIH Health La Mirada Medical Office Building, suggests children should be taken to the doctor at the first sign of a possible ear infection. An eardrum that is red, enlarged and possibly draining is most likely infected.  Most ear infections in young children need to be treated with antibiotics though some can resolve on their own. Your pediatrician can make the determination if the ear infection needs to be treated or not. It is also a good idea to make a follow-up appointment to ensure the infection is clearing up.

Tips to reduce the risk of your child developing ear infections:

  • Avoid secondhand smoke
  • Breast-feed your baby
  • Talk to your physician about vaccinations
  • Prevent common colds and other illnesses by hand washing frequently

Children with frequent infections will need to be monitored closely. Be sure to discuss how often you should schedule follow-up appointments. Your physician may also recommend regular hearing and language tests for your child.

The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.

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