It’s 2 am and this is the third night in a row your baby has woken up and cried for hours. Is it colic? Is it teething? You recall that he’s had a runny nose over the past week: could it be an ear infection? It very well may be. After all, ear infections are most common in children ages 6 to 24 months—not to mention that about eighty percent of children experience an ear infection by the time they are three years old. Believe us when we say that Hospitality Health ER doctors can’t even count the number of children that we’ve treated for ear infections, especially here in Texas where upper respiratory infections and allergies are so prevalent.
How Can I Tell If My Child Has an Ear Infection?
There is no doubt that it’s hard to tell what’s wrong with your infant or toddler when they don’t have the words to describe what they’re feeling. So it’s important to watch out for any of the following symptoms of an ear infection: a fever above 102 degrees F, ear tugging, difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and increased irritability, especially when your child is lying down. More severe symptoms include drainage from the ear, which may indicate a perforated ear drum. An ear infection can also result in your child not hearing clearly, so they may fail to respond to your voice like they normally would.
It is also more likely to be an ear infection if your child has had a recent cold or suffers from allergies. Ear infections happen when fluid gets stuck in the middle ear and becomes infected by bacteria or a virus, which commonly occurs when the eustachian tube becomes blocked by swelling or congestion from a cold. Allergies can also cause swelling that blocks this tube.
How Can I Reduce the Pain of an Ear Infection?
As a precaution, if your child has shown prolonged symptoms of an ear infection that have lasted for more than three days or any severe symptoms, you should seek medical attention. If your child just started showing symptoms and you’d like to try to manage your child’s discomfort at home before taking them to the pediatrician, you can call your doctor’s office and ask about using acetaminophen or ibuprofen to ease the pain.
Because over-the-counter ear drops can cause permanent damage to a perforated eardrum, they are not recommended without a doctor’s approval. To reduce the pressure on your child’s eustachian tubes, you should avoid airplane rides and try to keep your child’s head elevated, even during naps. For safety purposes, you can place a pillow underneath their crib sheet to elevate their head when they’re sleeping or lying in their crib.