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Causes and Treatment for a Child’s Middle Ear Infection

A child getting a middle ear infection treatment from a pediatrician

What Is a Middle Ear Infection?

A middle ear infection can be caused by a virus or bacteria. It happens in the space behind the eardrum. If this space cannot be adequately drained by the Eustachian tube, it can fill with fluid that eventually may become infected. The fluid can act like an earplug and cause a decrease in hearing for a while until the space is clear again.

What Are the Possible Symptoms?

  • Fever greater than 100.4
  • Ear pain or pulling at the ears
  • A temporary decrease in hearing or falling more often than usual
  • Being fussy or not being able to sleep
  • Vomiting or having diarrhea
  • Decreased appetite
  • Pus draining from the ear

Your Child’s Ears May Hurt for Other Reasons

Ear pain can also be caused by:

  • An infection of the ear canal skin (known as “swimmer’s ear”)
  • Blocked or plugged Eustachian tube (the tube that connects the ear and the throat) from a cold or allergy
  • A sore throat
  • Teething or sore gums

What Is the Treatment?

Your child’s doctor will talk with you about specific care for your child. Some general guidelines to follow include:

  • Give acetaminophen (Tylenol)  for pain and fever. Follow the dosage charts carefully or ask your child’s doctor how much medicine to give. Do not give your child more than 5 doses of acetaminophen in a 24-hour period.
  • Give plenty of fluids.
  • Medicines as advised by your child’s doctor.
  • Keep your child away from cigarette smoke.
  • Do not allow your child to take a bottle to bed.
  • Have your child’s ears rechecked as told by your doctor.
  • Never stick a cotton swab (for example Q-Tip) or other pointed object in your child’s ear to clean it out. This can harm the ear.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your child’s doctor right away if your child has one or more of the following symptoms:

  • He does not smile or play for even a few minutes every 4 hours
  • Still has fever, irritability or pain 48 hours after antibiotics are started
  • He develops new symptoms
  • There are signs of dehydration:
    • No urine in six to eight hours in an infant younger than 1 year old
    • No urine in more than eight hours in a child older than 1 year old
    • No tears when crying
    • Sunken eyes
    • Dry lips and mouth
  • He has problems taking the antibiotic

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/ear-nose-throat/Pages/Ear-Infection-Information.aspx – general information about ear infections

 

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