Dr. Bob Arnot talks about middle ear infections, most common in young children, how to abvoid them, and treatment options.
Read the full transcript »
I am Dr. Bob Arnot. The most common condition found in small children other than the common cold is the middle ear infection. The reason is simple, the middle ear is drained by which is called the eustachean tube which is a lot narrower in small children than there is in adults or older children and so it is more likely to become blocked if you have either a common cold or a sore throat. In fact, three out of every four children suffer a middle ear infection by the age of three. Now these are not conditions, it turns that there can be long lasting very serious complications to this middle ear infections. There is no reason to panic though, we have some very simple signs and symptoms to look for and the steps you need to take to prevent complications. Most middle ear infection patients are too young to tell you what is bothering them, that is why, as a parent you really need to pay close attention to a handful of key clues. The first thing you may notice is that your child is spending a lot of time tagging or pulling at his or her ears. You may also see a little fluid draining from the ears. Other signs include, fever, increased crankiness, loss of appetite, or trouble sleeping. Finally, if your child seems to be ignoring you or sitting closer to the TV than usual, it could be that they can not hear as well, another common sign. Now once you have figured out what is going on start administering a basic children’s dose of Tylenol or an ibuprofen for the pain and come in for a check up, or just wait and see what happens over the next three to five days, just be sure you do not use aspirin because it may increase the risk of a rare but serious condition known as Reye’s syndrome. Most healthcare providers today generally try to avoid treating ear infections with antibiotics in young children. If the infection gets worse or does not get better in five days then be sure to come in for an evaluation because your child may need an antibiotic. Once your child is better you will probably want to schedule a followup with your primary care provider. What you are trying to avoid are repeat ear infections or chronic fluid build up because that can contribute to lingering hearing loss that may lead to speech and language problems.