Ear infections are the result of fluid buildup in the middle ear. Also known as otitis media, they typically occur following a viral or bacterial infection.
Middle ear infections are more common in children than adults. Children tend to experience dysfunction of the Eustachian tube that is responsible for equalizing pressure in the ear, contributing to recurrent infections.
Eustachian tube function generally improves as children get older, and they frequently outgrow recurrent ear problems by the age of eight or nine.
Other contributing factors to ear infections include allergies and enlarged tonsils or adenoids.
What are the Symptoms of Ear Infections?
Symptoms of a middle ear infection include fever, pain, and irritability. Home remedies include over-the-counter pain medications, eardrops, and warm compresses placed against the ear. When infections are frequent or do not resolve with antibiotics, tubes are placed in the eardrum to improve ventilation. These bypass the Eustachian tube to allow air in the middle ear and keep the pressure equalized. If enlarged tonsils or adenoids are causing frequent infections, surgery to remove them may be necessary.
Can Ear Infections Be Prevented?
Ear infections are a rite of passage for many children. With the pain and misery they cause, preventing them from occurring in the first place is ideal. In addition to practicing good hygiene and making sure your child’s immunizations are current, keeping him/her away from tobacco smoke can help. For infants, try breastfeeding instead of bottles. If your child is old enough for daycare, look for a smaller center with fewer children.