What is an Ear Infection?

Today, I read a children’s health statistic that really surprised me. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, nearly seventy five percent of children will have at least one ear infection by the time that they turn three years old. What’s more, of that seventy five percent, half will experience three or more ear infections in their first three years of life.

When your child has an ear infection, fluid collects in the Eustachian tubes inside of the ear. Normally the fluid would drain away, but sometimes the tubes become blocked. The result is that bacteria grow in the trapped fluid, causing a swollen, red eardrum and plenty of pain.

The reason that younger children get ear infections more often than older kids is that their Eustachian tubes are still growing. Fluid is more easily trapped in the shorter tubes, which have not yet reached their final position within the ear. Also, young children have developing immune systems and are more susceptible to illnesses of all kinds, including the cold and flu type illnesses that create the fluid which later becomes trapped and causes the ear infection.

Some common signs that your little one may have an ear infection include pulling at the ears, decreased appetite, fever, trouble sleeping, and increased fussiness following a cold or other similar illness. If you suspect that your child may have an ear infection, it is important that you let your pediatrician know about it right away. You may not have to bring your child to the doctor, though. Many times, doctors will talk with parents about what they see, and give them advice on what to look for as the child progresses through the ear infection and recovers from it. Many ear infections do not require medication, but it is important to talk with your child’s pediatrician in case complications develop or in case your child begins to suffer from frequent ear infections. Your pediatrician may also have some suggestions for how to help ease the pain from the ear infection with things like childrens’ pain relievers or holding a warm wash cloth over the ear.

 Photo by anitapeppers on morguefile.com.

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