Children pass through many health hurdles for the first several years of their lives, such as colds, growing teeth, and ear infections. About 50% of infants will have at least one ear infection before their second birthday. Since communicating the issue is difficult for infants, it comes down to recognizing the signs of a potential ear infection.
To help, Dr. John Monroe and the Healthy Life Family Medicine team outline five common signs of an ear infection. Whether you suspect your infant has an ear infection, or someone older in your family, here’s what to watch out for.
Why kids get so many ear infections
Before we get into the signs, we want to explain why kids are more prone to ear infections. First, your infant’s immune system isn’t strong when they first come into the world. As they develop, this immunity will build, but, in the meantime, they’re more susceptible to viral and bacterial infections, such as those that cause ear infections.
Second, the eustachian tubes — the tubes that connect the middle ear to the throat — in your child are smaller, and more horizontal. As a result, fluid doesn’t drain as easily out of their ears, creating an environment more vulnerable to infection.
Signs of an ear infection
Now that we understand why kids can get so many ear infections let’s look at some of the more common signs of the problem.
Ear infections can be excruciating, so this is one sign that’s hard to ignore. If your child can’t speak yet, they may cry a good deal in response to the discomfort. Of course, there are many things that can cause an infant to cry, so identifying an ear infection comes down to recognizing other signs.
2. Tugging at their ear
One clear sign of an ear infection in a toddler is when they tug or rub their ear.
3. Fluid drainage
You may notice an odd fluid oozing from their ear.
If your child has a fever, it’s a sign that they’re fighting an infection. Please note that if the fever is high — higher than 102℉ — you should come to see us for acute care.
5. Muffled hearing
If your child doesn't respond to sounds as well, this might indicate an infected ear.
Treating ear infections
Your child’s age will dictate treatment to a great degree. If your child is less than six months, antibiotics may be the best course of action. If your child is over the age of six months, we want to use antibiotics sparingly so they don’t build resistance.
In most cases, ear infections clear on their own, and you can manage your child’s discomfort with over-the-counter medications.
If your child has frequent ear infections, we can discuss ways to offset the problem, such as placing tubes in their ears that help with drainage.
If you have more questions about ear infections or you’d like help with your child’s current infection, please call our Goodyear, Arizona, office at (623) 889-3477 to schedule an appointment. You can also book an appointment online today with Dr. Monroe using our booking tool.