An ear infection –or acute otitis media– is an inflammation of the middle ear that occurs when fluid builds up behind the eardrum and becomes infected by bacteria or a virus. While anyone can get an ear infection, the condition is most common among young children. According to the National Institutes of Health, “five out of six children will have at least one ear infection by their third birthday.” The majority of ear infections happen to children before they’ve developed the language skills to communicate their pain. Learn how to spot the signs and symptoms of an ear infection in your child .
How can I tell if my child has an ear infection?
Your child may have an ear infection if they are…
- tugging or pulling at the ear(s)
- irritable, crying, or fussier than usual
- failing to respond to sounds
- having trouble balancing
- experiencing drainage from the ear
- running a fever
- having difficulty sleeping
How are ear infections diagnosed and treated?
If your child is experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, it’s a good idea to have them evaluated by a medical professional. A provider will review their symptoms, perform a physical exam, and use a lighted instrument, called an otoscope, to look at the eardrum. The provider may also use a pneumatic otoscope to check for fluid behind the eardrum.
If there are signs of bacterial infection, your child will likely be prescribed a course of antibiotics. However, if a definitive diagnosis cannot be made, the provider may decide to monitor the situation and focus first on managing pain. Some earaches are not caused by infection, and will get better on their own with 1-2 days. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, and ear drops can help with fever and pain management.
If you suspect your child is suffering from an ear infection, head into Liberty Urgent Care today. Our providers can evaluate the infection and prescribe an appropriate treatment to help your little one feel better!