Falling leaves, apple cider, and…ear infections?

Joy Kain, MD, Noblesville Pediatrics

Ear infections are among the most common illnesses of early childhood and occur most frequently in the fall and winter months. It’s that time of year again! Noblesville Pediatrics board certified pediatrician, Joy Kain, MD, offers information on ear infections as well as a symptom guide to this common illness.

Three out of four children will experience an ear infection before the age of three. While ear infections are uncomfortable for children and cause parents to worry – in most cases ear infections clear up on their own in a few days. And, most children stop having ear infections once they reach school age.

The medical term for ear infections is otitis media – otitis refers to the inflammation of the ear and media means middle. Typically, ear infections begin with a viral infection such as a cold. The middle ear becomes inflamed from the infection and fluid builds up in the eardrum. Another cause of ear infections can be swelling or dysfunction within the Eustachian tubes – the narrow passageways that connect the middle ear to the nose. Normally, the Eustachian tubes equalize pressure inside and outside the ear. However, a child’s Eustachian tubes are shorter and narrower than an adult’s, allowing fluid to become easily trapped in the middle ear when the tubes dysfunction or become blocked during a cold. Swelling of the adenoids is another way a child can develop an ear infection.

Children between ages of six to 18 months are the most susceptible to ear infections, although ear infections are common from ages four months to four years. Ear infections most frequently occur during the fall and winter. In addition, factors such as poor air quality (exposure to second hand smoke), group child care, family history, race and feeding position can increase the risk of an ear infection.

Typically, ear infections are not an emergency. If a child’s symptoms (see below) last longer than one day, contact the child’s pediatrician. The pediatrician will perform an exam to determine if the child has an ear infection and will determine the type of treatment necessary. If you are in need of a pediatrician for your child, please view our complete list of pediatricians here.

Ear infections can be hard to detect, especially if a child is too young explain that his or her ear hurts. Knowing what to look for can help.

Children with ear infections may:

•    Tug or pull at their ears
•    Cry more than usual
•    Have trouble sleeping
•    Fail to respond to sounds
•    Be unusually irritable
•    Develop a fever
•    Develop fluid that drains from the ears
•    Have headaches