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All parents know the rush of adrenaline that hits when they are awoken in the middle of the night to the screams of a child. Your heart starts to pound and you leap out of bed and sprint into your child’s bedroom only to find your child pulling at his ear while tears stream down his face. Your poor baby has an ear infection. Now it all makes sense, the fussy behavior earlier in the day, the battle to get him to eat any dinner, and the irritability at bedtime.

Ear infections are painful in children and adults alike but will resolve quickly with proper treatment.

What is an ear infection?

An ear infection occurs when the middle ear is inflamed. Ear infections are typically caused by bacteria, that occurs when fluid builds up behind the eardrum.

Who can get an ear infection?

While adults and children can have ear infections, children suffer more frequently from them. In fact, according to the US department of Health and Human Services, five out of six children will have at least one ear infection by their third birthday. Ear infections are one of the top reasons that parents bring their children to Our Urgent Care for treatment.

Why are children more likely to suffer from ear infections?

The most common reason why children have more ear infections than adults is due to the size of their eustachian tubes. The eustachian tubes in children are smaller and less slanted then in an adult middle ear. The size and level nature of the tubes in children’s ears makes it difficult for fluid to drain out of the ear, even under normal conditions. When a child has a cold the eustachian tubes can become swollen or blocked with mucus, which prevents fluid from draining properly, leads to bacterial build up and eventually an infection. Additionally, children tend to have weaker immune systems which make them more susceptible to infections and colds in general.

Common Symptoms

What makes diagnosis difficult is that most ear infections occur before your child is able to talk, so look for these common signs.

  • Tugging or pulling at the ear(s)
  • Crying or fussing
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Fever (especially in infants and younger children)
  • Fluid draining from the ear
  • Difficulty with balance
  • Trouble hearing

Treatment

If your child is diagnosed with a bacterial ear infection, most doctors will prescribe an antibiotic that will need to be taken over 7 to 10 days. Once your child starts on the medicine it can take several days for him to feel better, so we would also recommend an over-the-counter pain reliever such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) to help with fever and pain. If your child does need to take an antibiotic, it’s very important to make sure your child takes it exactly as prescribed and for the full amount of time. While your child might seem fully recovered in a few days with his acute symptoms gone, the infection still hasn’t completely been cleared from the ear. If you fail to administer the correct dosage over the correct amount of time, then the infection is likely to return and you will be back to pulling all-nighters.

Sleepless nights are never fun and soothing a sick child can be exhausting. That’s why we are here for you at Our Urgent Care, to help you and your family return to health quickly and get back to your normal routine.