Ear infections are one of the most common childhood illnesses. Up to 80% of children will have an ear infection before they turn 4 years old. While most ear infections are viral and clear up on their own within a few days, there are some things you can do to help your child feel better and prevent complications.
Signs of an Ear Infection
The most common symptoms of an ear infection in children include:
- Ear pain
- Drainage from the ear
- Difficulty sleeping and/or laying flat
- Tugging or pulling at the ear
When to Call a Doctor
If you notice any of the signs and symptoms of an ear infection in your child, make sure to call your healthcare provider as soon as possible. While viral ear infections can resolve on their own, bacterial ear infections can usually be treated with antibiotics. If bacterial ear infections are left untreated, they can lead to much more serious complications, such as hearing loss.
Home Treatments for Mild Ear Infections
While you are waiting for your child’s appointment, there are a few things you can do at home to help relieve their symptoms:
- Give them over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen if over six months old.
- Apply a warm compress to their ear.
How to Tell if Your Child Has an Ear Infection
Knowing the signs of ear infections is one thing, but knowing when they are coalescing into an actual infection is a different story, especially when the child is too young to communicate it clearly. However, there are a few things you can look for:
- Ear pain. Ear pain is the most common sign of an ear infection. Your child may complain of ear, jaw, or even throat pain, or they may tug or pull at their ear.
- Fever. A fever is another common sign of an ear infection. A fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher is considered a fever in children.
- Drainage from the ear. If your child has drainage from their ear, it may be clear, yellow, or greenish. Drainage from the ear can be a sign of an ear infection, but it can also be a sign of other conditions, such as a ruptured eardrum.
- Difficulty sleeping. Ear infections can cause pain and discomfort, which can make it difficult for your child to lay flat and/or sleep.
- Irritability. All children get irritable from time to time. However, if irritability is combined with other symptoms of an ear infection, it’s best to have it checked out by a Pediatrician.
If you notice any of these signs or symptoms in your child, call your healthcare provider right away.
Prevent Ear Infections
Ear infections are commonly associated with viruses, including the flu, so the best way to prevent ear infections is to keep your child’s vaccinations up-to-date. The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) and the Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine (Hib) will help protect your child against common bacteria that cause ear infections too.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. You can help prevent your child from developing ear infections with several simple steps.
- Teach your child to wash their hands often.
- Avoid exposing your child to secondhand smoke.
- Keep your child’s ear canals dry.
What If Your Child Develops an Ear Infection?
Carefully follow your healthcare provider’s instructions if your child develops an ear infection. If they are prescribed antibiotics, make sure you give them the entire course, even if they start to feel better beforehand. If you have concerns about your child’s ear infection or if you don’t notice a difference within a few days of starting an antibiotic, please do not hesitate to call your healthcare provider.
If your child develops signs or symptoms of an ear infection, there’s a good chance it will happen outside of your PCP’s regular office hours. In that case, you can contact Hello Pediatrics for telehealth pediatric services. Our team of board-certified Pediatricians is available 24/7 to provide support and guidance.
If you are in need of a convenient and affordable option for sick care, Hello Pediatrics is here for you. Contact us online or give us a call at (855) 576-8745.