Ear infections are all too often a common part of growing up. With developing immune systems, close exposure to school and play friends, and juvenile anatomies, conditions exist that support infections of the middle ear, medically called otitis media.
Earaches are a sign of infection, and some children develop these more easily and more often, in what seems like a steady cycle. It’s not due to a constant presence of bacteria or viruses, but more likely due to physical conditions inside their heads.
While earaches are common for children, they’re not always routine illnesses that rest and time will cure. While rare, there are serious complications that can arise from an ear infection, so it’s best to have it medically checked.
Dr. Scott Bateman and his team at Sheridan Ear, Nose & Throat specialize in pediatric care. We can assess your child and treat their ear infections with antibiotics, when necessary. We’re ready to help when their young bodies can’t fight infections alone.
Ear infections are one of the most common reasons why children visit doctors and emergency rooms. While earaches can resolve on their own, the associated pain can be strong and enduring. One of the reasons for both the intensity of pain and frequency of infection traces back to your child’s developing body.
The middle ear is normally filled with air behind the eardrum. Air pressure remains the same as outside your body because of the eustachian tubes, tiny passageways that connect the back of the mouth with the middle ear. The plugged feeling of an ear infection results from the blockage of the eustachian tubes.
This is the same when earaches affect children or adults. However, your child’s growing body often results in a flat path for the eustachian tube, without the downward slope it will develop later in life; gravity doesn’t help with tube drainage as much as it will later on; and the eustachian tubes themselves may be smaller in diameter than they will be when growing is done.
The tube situation is complicated by mucus. The viscosity of the gooey substance doesn’t change with your child’s age, so it’s much easier for mucus to plug the eustachian tubes when they’re smaller and flatter. Colds and allergies are common triggers for ear infections for this reason.
Since earaches can come on suddenly, you may need to keep your child as comfortable as possible before visiting our office. Children’s-strength ibuprofen or acetaminophen, used as directed, can take the edge off the pain. Don’t use aspirin unless directed to by a doctor. Warm compresses held over the affected ear can also ease the pain and discomfort of an earache while waiting for treatment.
If Dr. Bateman suspects that your child’s ear infection traces back to bacteria, he prescribes antibiotics, since the infection is more likely to support itself and continue, possibly spreading elsewhere in the body. Viral infections can’t be treated in the same way, but they fortunately run their course in about two weeks.
Kids with frequent earaches have other options too, like pain-relieving ear drops or more aggressive treatments to help drain the middle ear.
Call Sheridan Ear, Nose & Throat directly, or make an appointment using the link on this page. We’re standing by, ready to help your child feel better after an earache, so contact us soon.