Have you heard?—Basics of an ear infection

If your child is complaining of ear pain, s/he may have an ear infection.  Ear infections are relatively common in kids; around half of infants are diagnosed with an ear infection by the time they are one-year-old.  If children aren’t old enough to speak yet, they tend to become cranky or tug at their ear when they have an ear infection.  They are commonly preceded by a cold or teething. 

Here are some other symptoms your child may exhibit:

  • Fever
  • Interrupted sleep
  • Cough when laying down
  • Yellow or white discharge from the ear
  • Decreased appetite
  • Difficulty hearing quiet sounds
  • Balance problems

The best way to treat an ear infection is up to your child’s doctor.  If the situation is serious and the doctor is worried about lasting complications, then s/he will likely prescribe antibiotics right away.  Otherwise, doctors are hesitant to give antibiotics because the infection usually clears up on its own.  Antibiotics only provide minimal pain and fever relief, and take about 24-48 hours to take effect.  Doctors are also concerned about the effects of repeated antibiotic use, as there are an increasing number of bacteria becoming resistant to the medication. 

Your best bet after you notice the onset of some of the symptoms is to treat and monitor your child’s symptoms at home to make them more comfortable.  

  • Pain relievers, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (Ibuprofen, Advil, Motrin) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) will reduce your child’s pain and discomfort.  This is especially a good idea before bed time. 
  • Putting a warm cloth or heating pad on the child’s ear can help with pain relief. 
  • Doctors many times prescribe eardrops that will help with the earache.  It’s best to consult your doctor before using eardrops, particularly if your child has tubes in his/her ears. 
  • Resting will also help your child’s body to beat the infection.  

If your child’s symptoms get worse or persist for days, it is best to call your child’s doctor.  Fort HealthCare’s  Pediatrics  and Integrated Family Care  team is here to ensure your child gets better in no time!

Heidi Jennrich, APNP

About Heidi Jennrich, APNP

Education
University of Virginia, School of Nursing, Charlottesville, VA

Certification
Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
Advanced Practice Nurse Prescriber
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