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Childhood Ear Infections

By Raquel S. Hunter

The most common of all childhood ear infections are infections in the middle ear. This is commonly referred to as Otitis Media. Cases of middle ear infections in children are most prevalent in children who are six years old and younger. Within that group, children between the ages of six and 24 months seem to be more susceptible to middle ear infections. Children who are in group child care facilities, around smokers, have prior ear infections, or who are bottle-fed are more prone to develop ear infections.

Middle ear infections are usually accompanied by, or come after, the child has a cold or the flu. The eustachian tube, which connects the ear and the nose, is short and horizontal in children. This opens the door for bacteria and viruses from the nose to enter the ear and set up infection.

When a child has a middle ear infection, they will experience pain. This pain can be worse upon chewing, blowing the nose, reclining, or even swallowing. The reason for the pain is the eustachian tube is swollen, and sometimes blocked. This causes a buildup of fluid which places pressure on the eardrum. The eardrum can bulge, or be stretched very taut. Middle ear infections may also bring about a temporary loss of hearing.

If your child has an ear infection, you will know they are in pain. You may notice them pulling on their ear, or they may become irritable during feedings, or when laid down to sleep. Your child may also have a fever, or drainage from their ear. You should take him or her to their pediatrician.

Once a pediatrician diagnosis that a child has an ear infection, he or she will prescribe antibiotics. You may also be advised to give your child over the counter pain or cold medication. Applying a warm cloth to your child's ear may also help to lessen the pain.

Children who have frequent ear infections may be candidates for tympanostomy. This is a surgical procedure that places tubes in the ears. These tubes are placed in the ear drum to keep fluid draining from the middle ear, and not building up. The tubes generally stay in place six to eighteen months. Most generally fall out on their own. Some may be removed by a doctor.

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