Middle ear infections are a common childhood illness, particularly for kids between the ages of two and four. These infections may follow respiratory illnesses such as colds. While people of any age can develop ear infections, there are conditions in your child’s body that contribute to both the development of infection and the extension of its duration.
Younger children may not be able to tell you their ears hurt, so they may be fussy and tug at their ears a lot. They may also have a fever. If you suspect an ear infection, schedule a visit to Sheridan Ear, Nose & Throat for the specialist care your child deserves. Specialists in pediatric care, Dr. Scott N. Bateman and the team are ready to help.
Ear infection basics
The outer, middle, and inner ear can each develop infections. Outer ear infections, sometimes called swimmer’s ear, can affect children, while inner ear infections are comparatively rare, spreading from infections elsewhere in the body. When your child complains of ear pain, it’s usually otitis media, a middle ear infection.
Typically stemming from viral or bacterial infections, middle ear infections feature inflammation of the eustachian tube, preventing the middle ear from draining mucus and pus. This part of the ear is normally filled with air, kept in balance with outside pressure by way of the eustachian tubes. When these tubes become blocked, fluid fills this normally dry area.
Without drainage, a middle ear infection can take hold, since these conditions support continued growth of bacteria. Symptoms of middle ear infection in children include:
- Ear pain: older children can vocalize the problem, while younger children may be fussy, pulling on their ears or sleeping poorly
- Lost appetite: the swelling that accompanies an ear infection may cause pain while chewing
- Fever: about half of all middle ear infections cause fever
- Temporary hearing loss: fluid build-up interferes with sound transmission
- Fluid drainage: a symptom of eardrum rupture
Behavior changes may occur ahead of ear complaints. If your child has had a respiratory illness like a cold or flu, be on the alert for signs of ear infection too.
Why does my child keep getting ear infections?
Perhaps the biggest reason for the recurrence of ear infections in a child is their developing anatomies. The eustachian tubes that connect the middle ear with the throat are smaller and closer to level in your child’s early years. There’s less gravity assist for fluid drainage, and the viscosity of mucus and pus may overwhelm the small diameter of the growing tubes. The adenoids in the throat can also swell and interfere with fluid drainage.
As your child grows, the eustachian tubes become larger and more slanted, better able to handle their drainage role. More room in the mouth means that adenoids are less likely to block the tubes. Usually, children outgrow recurrent infections by the age of eight.
While middle ear infections are common, they can lead to hearing issues when they occur frequently or when they’re severe. Consult with Sheridan Ear, Nose & Throat for an assessment of your child’s condition before this minor ailment becomes a major problem. You can book your visit by phone or online.