Children are more likely to get ear infections than adults. Ear infections are often extremely painful, and can cause hearing loss and other serious complications if not treated properly.
The two types of ear infections most often occurring in children are outer ear infections (aka swimmer’s ear) and middle ear infections.
Symptoms of outer ear infections most often include pain, sensitivity to touch, a red, inflamed ear canal, and sometimes drainage. Outer ear infections are most often treated with antibiotic ear drops, which usually begin clearing up the infection within 24 to 48 hours.
Middle ear infections are most often bacterial or viral infections that affect the air-filled space behind the eardrum that contains the tiny vibrating bones of the ear, and are more common in infants and younger children. Infants or young children with a middle ear infection will often become fussy, frequently tug on their ears, and may have a low-grade fever. Because the infection occurs behind the ear drum, it must be treated with oral antibiotics rather than ear drops.
If a child is experiencing recurrent acute ear infections or persistent fluid drainage without infection over a period of two to three months, their physician may recommend ear tubes. Treating these persistent issues with ear tubes is very effective in eliminating fluid, resolving infections and improving hearing.
If you suspect you child may be suffering from an outer or middle ear infection, it is important to discuss the symptoms and proper treatment with their doctor to avoid long-term hearing damage or other complications.
Dr. Chris Newman is an otorhinolaryngology specialist (ears, nose and throat) at his practice on Northwood Avenue in Greensboro and a member of the Cone Health medical staff. Dr. Newman is a 1984 graduate of Bowman Gray School of Medicine. He completed his residency in Otolaryngology at Duke University Medical Center.