Your baby has had a cold and been stuffed up for a few days, and today you see her tugging at her ear. Your busy toddler won’t eat dinner and can’t fall asleep. He says he has a headache...Uh-oh. Looks like another ear infection!
The majority of children under age six--kids under two in particular--get an ear infection at some point (and many unfortunate kids seem to get them again and again). Ear infections are caused by a blockage in the ear tubes that does not allow any fluid in the ear canal to drain properly.
Clues that your child might have an ear infection might include:
Loss of appetite;
Inability to fall asleep (or to stay asleep);
Ear pain (this is when you might see tugging on the ear);
Fluid draining from the ear; or
More and more doctors are holding off on prescribing antibiotics for ear infections these days, as the majority of infections will clear themselves up over the course of a few days. However, its important to let your doctor know if you suspect your child may have an ear infection. You and the doctor can monitor your child’s progress and determine if and when treatment is needed.
Often, the infection will go away on its own over time. Doctors will likely recommend some of the following “home remedies” to help soothe your child:
Pain relievers (acetaminophen or ibuprofen, NOT aspirin);
Over-the-counter ear drops with benzocaine;
Sitting and sleeping in an upright position; or
Warm washcloth (or even a heating pad on low heat) over the ear.
If, over the next few days, your child’s infection does not seem to be improving, you and your doctor can re-asses the situation and if antibiotics are necessary. If your child is under six months of age, or if he or she seems to be getting worse, antibiotics will most likely be prescribed. If your child seems to frequently get ear infections, your doctor may recommend a visit with an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist), who can discuss options for the future with you (e.g., surgical insertion of ear tubes, removal of adenoids).