Did you know that ear infections are the most common reason for a sick visit with kids? Did you also know that according to the National Institute of Health that three out of four children will have at least one ear infection by their third birthday?
Ear infections are common among kids. It is caused by bacteria that gets stuck in the eustachian tubes that cannot drain, forcing it to then get stuck behind the ear drum. The eustachian tubes in kids are smaller and more level so when there is increased fluid (teething or a cold) the tubes cannot drain as easy. In fact, even without the conditions of a cold it can be harder for the fluid to drain in a child’s ear.
Your child may tug at their ears or say they hurt, or they may be extra fussy or cranky. Some kids have difficulty sleeping because being flat builds up more pressure. Some, but not all, children may get a fever as well.
Treatment is usually antibiotics. They will start with something light like amoxicillin and work up to something stronger if the doctor feels the infection is stronger and needs something a bit more potent. After a bunch of infections or if the doctor sees chronic ear infections they may refer to an otolaryngologist or ENT (same doc!) They are specially trained to see if it is a true infection from bacteria or just fluid behind the eardrum. They can also tell if it is chronic or acute (meaning they happen on a regular basis or just caused by a bacteria).
I have personal experience with ear infections. Bananas had many ear infections, it felt like one almost every month. She spent her first Christmas at the doctor’s office (luckily we brought Christmas cookies so the doc and staff working were pleased!). When she was just a year old we had to get tubes put in her ears. We had tried multiple rounds of antibiotics and the infection would clear but always return.
They insert a small tube through a tiny hole in the ear drum to help the fluid drain before it turns into something nasty. It doesn’t affect hearing but allows ventilation so that infection is less likely. It is done in an operating room so they usually do both ears. The procedure is very fast, in fact when Bananas had her surgery we didn’t even have time to get back to the waiting room before they called us into recovery!
Tubes usually last 6-18 months and most fall out on their own. One of my daughter’s fell out on its own and the other one was pulled out by the doc at a follow up appointment and she was fine! Luckily, she has not had one infection since!
Since that time, whenever one of the other kids tugged on their ears, or I even thought they might have an infection, I brought them to get checked. Tank and Squeakers have been just fine, though. They may have each had one or two but nothing too serious and the question of tubes was never brought up with either of them.