Caused by a virus or bacteria, ear infections may or may not accompany illness. Earaches can be acute or chronic:
Acute: An isolated episode of active ear infection that causes a painful ear, often with fevers. It often produces a temporary hearing loss.
Chronic: Fluid behind the eardrum is typically not infected but persists for more than three months. Because the fluid muffles hearing, it can prompt speech and language concerns.
Here are 5 of the most asked questions regarding ear infections and the solutions for each one.
1. What are the signs of an ear infection? A child as young as 6 months can get ear infections, but cannot verbalize the pain they are feeling. There are some things you will want to keep an eye out for to prevent an ear infection:
- Pulling or tugging at the ears
- Ear drainage that’s milky white or yellowish white, with a foul odor
- A cranky or irritable mood
- A fever over 100 degrees
- An upper respiratory infection
- The sense that your child can’t hear you when you ask questions
2. How are ear infections treated? Antibiotics are usually the first solution, but they aren’t always necessary. Your child may need a different approach to cure ear infections especially if it happens multiple times. A doctor may suggest an option like ear tubes. Ear tubes allow the ear to drain which will decrease pain while avoiding future infections.
3. How long should you wait before considering ear tubes? Ear tubes should be something to consider when the following has occurred:
- Three ear infections within six months, or six infections within 12 months
- Any ear infection that has not resolved with antibiotics
- Hearing loss caused by fluid buildup behind the eardrum, especially if it lasts more than three months
4. What happens when your child gets ear tubes? Any surgery a baby or child goes through can be scary for both them and the parents or grandparents. Surgery for ear tubes, however, is quote common and takes about 10 to 15 minutes. Here are some of the things to expect:
- Your child will receive general anesthesia, usually through a face mask.
- The surgeon will clear any wax and debris from the ears.
- Tubes are inserted through a small surgical opening in the eardrums after any fluid is removed.
- An over-the-counter pain reliever may be helpful but is not usually needed.
- Eardrops can be used for a few days to keep the ear moist and to aid healing.
- “Little recovery time is required. Children go home the same day their tubes are inserted,” Dr. Hopkins says. “They can go back to school or play with their friends the following day.”
5. Will your child need another surgery to remove the tubes? Statistically, it's not likely. Typically one surgery will be needed and as the child grows up, the ear tubes will fall out on their own.