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What to do if your child has an ear infection?
What symptoms is my child likely to have?
Ear infections can be very painful due to the buildup of fluids and inflammation in the ear. Older children are likely to tell you their ear hurts. Common symptoms include the child tugging or pulling at an ear, being irritable and crying more than usual and having difficulty sleeping. You also may notice reduced response to noises, poor balance, little or no appetite and diarrhea. If your child begins to have fluid, pus or blood drain from the ear or has a fever of 100 or higher, call your pediatrician right away.
How can I reduce my child's pain or discomfort?
Placing a warm, moist cloth over the ear can help diminish pain. Over-the-counter pain relievers also can provide relief; be sure to follow the age and dosage instructions on the package. Your pediatrician also may prescribe eardrops or, when necessary, antibiotic therapy.
Are ear infections a serious threat to my child's health?
Hearing loss, perforation of the ear drum, delays in speech, social and developmental skills and other serious complications can develop in children who have acute, recurrent ear infections or inflammation and fluid buildup in the middle ear that remains after an ear infection has been resolved. If your child experiences frequent ear infections, it's important that your pediatrician closely monitors your child's care.
Can ear infections be prevented?
If possible, breast-feed your baby because breast milk contains antibodies that protect babies from illness.
Will recurrent ear infections diminish as my child grows?
Infants through 2-year-olds are more susceptible because they have more fragile immune systems. Children, in general, are more susceptible because their Eustachian tubes are narrower, making it more likely they can get clogged. As children grow, these types of problems diminish. However, some children may require medical procedures such as ear tubes, which drain fluid buildup from the middle ear. Your pediatrician will work with you to determine if and when a medical intervention is necessary.
Dr. Katherine Klein is a pediatrician at Sanford Clinic. A graduate of the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Allied Health, Knoll completed her internship and residency at The Children's Mercy Hospital and Clinics in Kansas City, Mo.