Ear Infections

Definition

An ear infection is a bacteria infection of the middle ear (the space behind the eardrum).It usually is a complication of a cold, occurring after the cold blocks off the Eustachian tube (the passage connecting the middle ear to the back of the throat). The pain is due to pressure and bulging of the eardrum from trapped, infected fluid.

Most children (75%) will have one or more ear infection, and over 25% of these will have repeated ear infections. in 5% to 10% of children, the pressure in the middle ear will cause the ear drum to rupture and drain. This small tear usually heals over the next week. The peak age range for ear infections is 6 months to 2 years, but they continue to be a common childhood illness until 8 years of age.

If the following treatment is carried out, there should be no permanent damage to the ear or the hearing.

Home Treatment

Antibiotics. Your child's antibiotic is _________________________.

Your child's dose is ______________________ given ____________ times each day during waking hours for __________ days. This medicine will kill the bacteria that is causing the ear infection.

Try to remember all the doses. If your child goes to school or to a baby-sitter, arrange for someone to give the afternoon dose. If the medicine is a liquid, store it in the refrigerator and use a measuring spoon to be sure that you give the right amount. Give the medicine until all the pills are gone or the bottle is empty. An antibiotic should not be saved from one illness to the next because it looses its strength. Even though your child will feel better in a few days, give the antibiotic until it is completely gone to keep the ear infection from flaring up again.

Pain relief. Your child can go outside and does not have to cover the ears. Swimming is permitted as long as there is no perforation (tear) in the ear drum or drainage from the ear. Air travel or a trip to the mountains is safe; just have your child drink fluids, suck on a pacifier, or chew gum during the descent. Your child can go to school or day care when he or she is feeling better and the fever is gone. Ear infections are not contagious.

Follow-up Visits. Your child has been given a return appointment in 2 to 3 weeks. At that visit we will look at the eardrum to be certain that the infection is cleared up and more treatment isn't needed. We may also want to test your child's hearing. Follow-up exams are very important, particularly if the eardrum is perforated.

Call Your Doctor Immediately If:

  • The fever or pain s not gone after your child has taken the antibiotic for 48 hours.
  • If your child develops a stiff neck.
  • You feel your child is getting worse.