Ear Infection in Children - FAQs

Ear infections are common among young children. This article aims to address many questions about ear infections. We will look at causes, symptoms, and treatment and answer some common questions.

If you are concerned about your child’s ear infection, feel free to contact After Hours Kids in Austin, Texas. Our doctors are available in the evenings when it can be difficult to get a doctor.

What is an Ear Infection?

An ear infection (otitis media) refers to either a bacterial or viral infection that gets into the middle ear. The middle ear is the space behind the eardrum. When the middle ear fills with infected fluid called pus, it can push on the eardrum and cause discomfort.

What Causes an Ear Infection?

An ear infection is usually caused by swelling in one or both of the eustachian tubes. These tubes connect the middle ear to the back of the throat and allow mucus to drain from the middle ear into the throat.

If your child gets a cold, a throat infection, an allergy, or acid reflux, the eustachian tubes can swell. The swelling prevents the tubes from draining properly, allowing viruses and bacteria to grow.

What Are the Symptoms of an Ear Infection?

Your child may display the following symptoms with an ear infection:

  • Ear pain: Your child may feel a sharp or dull pain or a throbbing ache. Discomfort can either fluctuate in intensity or persist consistently. It is usually worse at night.
  • Difficulty hearing: Your child may complain about their ears being blocked and not being able to hear properly. Younger infants or babies may not be as responsive.
  • Fever: An ear infection will often cause a fever, where the body temperature rises above 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Pus or fluid discharge: In some cases, pus or fluid discharge from the ear suggests an infection, possibly indicating a ruptured eardrum.
  • Headache: Your child may feel pressure or pain in the head or ears.

If your baby or infant is pulling at their ears, it may not necessarily be a sign of an ear infection. Young children do this to self-soothe or while playing.

How to Relieve Ear Pain

You can help relieve your child’s ear pain using over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. However, if your child is younger than 15 months, you should never give them aspirin. Aspirin can lead to a serious condition called Reye syndrome.

Does My Child Need Antibiotics?

Your doctor will decide whether your child needs antibiotics based on factors such as the severity of their infection, how frequently your child gets ear infections, and their age. Most ear infections can clear up on their own without the need for antibiotics. The first line of treatment is often medication to relieve pain. Your doctor will then wait to see if the infection clears up.

Antibiotics are not always the best solution for several reasons. Antibiotics will not clear up a viral infection nor get rid of middle ear fluid. Also, frequent use can lead to a rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

How Long Does it Take to Recover?

You can expect your child’s ear infection to clear up within 2 to 3 days. This should happen regardless of treatment or not. Let your doctor know if your child’s ear infection has not cleared up in that time.

Your child may have fluid in their middle ear even after the infection clears. If the fluid is still there after 3 months, your child may need further treatment.

Schedule an Appointment Today

For comprehensive care in Austin, TX, consider reaching out to After Hours Kids. We can provide expert guidance and assistance for pediatric ear infections, ensuring your child’s well-being beyond traditional office hours. Contact our office today!

FAQs About Ear Infections

We are often asked the following questions about ear infections in children.

Why Does My Child Keep Getting Ear Infections?

There could be one of several reasons why your child is more susceptible to frequent middle ear infections. Younger children get more ear infections than older children. Genetic factors may also play a role in the frequency at which your child will get an ear infection. Some chronic ear infections can be put down to antibiotic-resistant bacteria called biofilms.

Contact your child’s doctor if you are concerned about your child’s frequent ear infections. At times, they may refer your child to see an Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialist (ENT).

While you cannot always prevent ear infections, there are some things you can do to help reduce the risk of them occurring. Some measures include the following:

  • Breastfeeding can help increase your child’s immunity
  • Avoid secondhand smoke
  • Keep up to date with their vaccines
  • Frequent hand washing can reduce the risk of infection

An ear infection (commonly known as otitis media or a middle ear infection) occurs behind the tympanic membrane, acting as a barrier between the middle and outer ear.

Swimmer’s ear (or otitis external) is an outer ear infection resulting from water retention in the ear canal after swimming or bathing, or from trauma to the ear canal. Unlike middle ear infections, swimmer’s ear is treated with drops and affects the external part of the ear.

Whether your child can swim with an ear infection depends on various factors. If the eardrum remains undamaged and swimming is not causing discomfort, it may be permissible. However, diving underwater or exposure to pressure changes can be painful with an ear infection.

It’s advisable to consult your healthcare provider, especially if the eardrum has ruptured or if your child has pressure equalization (PE) tubes. It is also recommended that your child recovers from swimmer’s ear before returning to the pool.