Ear infections are a common childhood malady, and one of the leading reasons for pediatric visits. They are the result of fluid in the middle ear; when it is unable to drain, infection sets in, causing inflammation and pain. Adults may also experience ear infections, but they are much more rare in older individuals.
Causes & Symptoms
Ear infections occur when fluid becomes trapped in the middle ear as the result of a cold virus or bacteria, which can cause the Eustachian tube – normally responsible for draining fluids from the middle ear – to become swollen. This is especially common in younger children, whose bodies are still developing.
In addition to a painful earache, your child may experience a thick discharge of yellowish fluid from the affected ear. Additional symptoms include fever, irritability, a decrease in hearing, loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Treating an Ear Infection
To test for an ear infection, your child’s doctor will examine the ears with an otoscope, checking for any unusual swelling or redness, and any fluids that have built up in the middle ear. Most ear infections are acute and clear up on their own within a few days, so home remedies are often effective. Pressing a warm compress to the affected ear can bring relief. Over-the-counter pain medications and eardrops can also be used. Make sure your child gets plenty of rest. If the ear infection is caused by bacteria, antibiotics are usually prescribed. Make sure to follow the instructions and complete the full dosage of medication, even if symptoms have cleared up; this will prevent the infection from returning.