Ear Infections - The good, the bad, and the ugly

Has your child being a particularly fussy and waking up much more than usual? Does your baby wake up crying as if he or she is in pain? Are you wondering if it might be an ear infection?

It's quite possible. Since ear infections are quite common in young children. Their ear tubes are short, wide, and horizontal. This gives bacteria from the nose and throat an easy path to the ears. Ear infections are often associated with cold or allergies, which create more mucus in the middle ear. Two out of three children under the age of three have had an ear infection, and some of them have had multiple infections. As children and get older and their ear tubes mature, they will less likely be so susceptible to ear infections. In the meantime, an untreated ear infection will prevent your child from sleeping well, since the pain is more intense when lying down, versus being upright.

What causes ear infections?

Ear infections happen when bacteria and fluid build up in the inner ear. This situation often occurs following a cold, sinus infection, or other respiratory illness, or in conjunction with allergies. The fluids get trapped in the ear, causing throbbing pain.


How to tell if your child has an ear infection

Your child may show some, or even none of the following symptoms. It's always important to see your healthcare provider if you even suspect an ear infection.

  • A sudden change in temperament: more fussiness, cleanliness, or crying
  • Increased night waking
  • Waking up crying in pain
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Reduced appetite or difficulty swallowing
  • Runny nose that continues after a cold
  • Drainage from the ear
  • Fussiness when lying down that goes away when a child is upright
  • Difficulty with balance, frequent falling, sensations of dizziness
  • Signs of difficulty hearing

These symptoms almost always indicate an ear infection:

  • Ear pain or frequent pulling, batting, or grabbing at the ears
  • Green, white, or yellow fluid draining from the ear.
  • A dry crust on the outer portion of the ear after sleeping.
  • And unpleasant odour that is coming from the ear.


What to do about an ear infection

If your child is exhibiting any of the preceding symptoms, or you suspect an ear infection, make an appointment with your healthcare provider right away. This is important because an untreated ear infection can lead to speech difficulties, hearing loss, meningitis, or other complications.

Your doctor will suggest some of the following treatments if your child does have an ear infection. However, do not try to solve this problem on your own.

  • Give your child a pain reliever, such as Tylenol or Advil. Never give your child aspirin.
  • Keep your child's head elevated for sleep. You can do this by raising one end of the mattress
  • Place a warm compress over the affected ear
  • Keep the ears dry and out of water
  • Offer plenty of liquids
  • Administer prescribed antibiotics or prescribed eardrops
  • Provide Homeopathic remedies such as Echinacea, goldenseal, chamomile, or herbal oil ear drops


How to reduce the chance of ear infections

Any child can get an ear infection, but a few measures can reduce the likelihood.

  1. Prevent the colds and flu that introduce the bacteria into your child system. Wash your hands and your child's hands frequently. When possible, keep your child away from anyone who is obviously sick with a cold or flu.
  2. Keep your child away from cigarette smoke. Just one afternoon spent with second hand smoke can increase your child's chances of developing an ear infection.
  3. Never let your child sleep with a bottle unless it is filled with water. Milk or juice can pull in the mouth and seep into the ear canals. (Plus, it might cause tooth decay.)