Why do children get ear infections more frequently than adults?
Germs enter our bodies through our noses and sinuses. A channel, called the Eustachian tube, extends from the middle ear to the back of the nasal cavity and upper throat. Colds, viruses, sinus infections, allergies, smoke, or the flu can make the tube swell so that fresh air cannot get into the ear.
The Eustachian tubes in infants, toddlers, and young children are tiny and flat, not curved as in an adult. Therefore, they’re more prone to close up than those of adults, leading to trapped germs and fluids which can produce infections.
If your child has trouble sleeping, has a fever, is irritable and crying, especially when prone, tugs at the ear, or has more trouble with balance than normal, she may have an ear infection.
How are ear infections diagnosed and treated in children?
When the physician views the eardrum with an otoscope, if an ear infection is present, it appears red, irritated, and swollen. A single case is called an acute ear infection. If a child has three infections in a six month period, the diagnosis is recurrent ear infections.
Ear infections may result from bacteria, which require antibiotics, or from a virus. If your child doesn’t have frequent ear infections, pediatricians often take a wait-and-see approach, because a virus may resolve on its own. If your child has frequent ear infections, a fever, and you are visiting after normal business hours when your pediatrician is not available, the physician at UrgiKids may prescribe an antibiotic and ask you to follow up with your pediatrician.