Ear infections are common in children under the age of six but can be experienced as an adult as well. Symptoms include irritability and pain, especially in the area around the ear. Children may not have the vocabulary to explain what is wrong and may take to tugging at their ear repeatedly. If your child exhibits any of these symptoms for several days, take them to an urgent care center for efficient diagnosis and treatment.
What Causes an Ear Infection?
An ear infection forms when the Eustachian tube, located just under the middle ear. As a child’s body is still developing, the Eustachian tube is horizontal and shorter than that of an adult, making it more difficult to drain fluid from the eardrum. This becomes an issue when a child has a cold or an allergic reaction: when the tube swells, it will not be able to properly drain, trapping fluid and allowing bacteria to form, leading to an ear infection.
How Can I Tell If My Child Has an Ear Infection?
There are several ways to tell if your child is suffering from an ear infection, from the physical to the subtle. Since a child may be too young to properly verbalize what is wrong, the symptoms may not be entirely obvious at first. You may notice your child persistently tugging or scratching at their ear throughout the day, and a fever may develop after a few days. You may also notice a decrease in your child’s appetite, and they may not be able to hear you when you talk in your “indoor voice.” Additional symptoms include irritability and trouble sleeping. If left untreated for long, your child may begin vomiting.
Treating & Preventing Ear Infections
There are several ways you can prevent ear infections from forming. Cigarette smoke can cause blockages in the Eustachian tube, causing an infection to form. Refrain from smoking near your child to reduce smoke inhalation. If your child has allergies, make sure you keep an eye on them in situations where a reaction may be triggered. Fluids from an allergic reaction may cause blockages, leading to an infection. If your child is still bottle-feeding, keep them in a seated position to help digestion and keeping milk from flowing into the middle ear. Preventing the spread of germs through thorough hand-washing and disinfecting can help prevent ear infections, as well as the cold and flu virus.
If your child has an ear infection, the doctor will prescribe antibiotics to weaken symptoms and relieve pain. However, if symptoms persist or complications develop, you may need to return to the doctor to check for additional problems. If ear infections continue to be a problem, your doctor may recommend a surgical procedure to insert tubes to help drain the fluid more easily.
If you or your child begin to develop an ear infection, visit your local AFC Urgent Care Center for treatment.