Otitis Media is doctor speak for a middle ear infection. While otitis media causes ear pain, it is not the only reason kids get earaches. A middle ear infection is caused by bacteria, resulting from a buildup of fluid behind the child’s eardrum.
Everybody can contract an ear infection, but children are more susceptible than adults. Research shows that five out of six kids will demonstrate with one (or more) instances of otitis media by the time they are three years old. Also, middle ear infections are the number one cause of children’s doctor visits.
Causes of Children’s Earache that Aren’t Otitis Media
Ear Canal Injuries – Kids are naturally curious. It’s not uncommon for a child to poke something pointy in her ear, like a stick or pencil. And moms, don’t get too vigilant when cleaning her ears with cotton swabs.
Ear Blockage – If the object gets stuck in her ear and she doesn’t tell you, it could cause a blockage. Also a buildup of earwax can cause ear blockage.
Glue Ear – Caused by gooey fluid buildup behind the child’s ear drum. Often it is residual from frequent ear infections. May affect child’s hearing if not resolved.
Colds – Earaches caused by the common cold can be seriously painful. Fluid trapped in the child’s ear applies pressure on the eardrum, resulting in painful throbbing. This type earache usually resolves itself after the cold runs its duration.
Mastoiditis – an acute infection of the mastoid bone, which is located in your child’s inner ear. In order to work correctly, the mastoid bone must get air from the Eustachian tube and other parts of your child’s ear. (Eustachian tube unites middle ear to back of throat)
Middle ear infections can block the Eustachian tube and cause the mastoid bone to become infected.
Otitis externa – ear infections such as. otitis media can extend to the outer ear, as well as tissue, jaw bones and face bones. Malignant otitis externa, a critical infection, can occur if the condition is not treated correctly.
Swimmer’s Ear – outer ear canal infection, extending from the eardrum to the external part of the head. Common cause is water that lingers in the ear from swimming. Moisture in ear becomes a playground for bacteria.
About the Middle Ear
Doctors have big ears! You’ve probably studied diagrams of an oversized ear while waiting (and waiting) for the doctor to appear. So, we’ll just do a little refresher, in layman’s terms.
The eardrum membrane divides the outer ear canal and middle ear. Three small bones suspended in the middle ear magnify and direct sound to the inner ear. The inner ear is responsible for converting sound vibrations into nerve signals, which the hearing (auditory) nerve transmits to the brain.
How to Prevent Recurring Ear Infections
- If possible, breastfeed your infant for the first six months. Your breast milk contains powerful antibodies that fight infection.
- Throw out the pacifier. Babies who use them, especially after age one, are 30% more likely to develop ear infections.
- Wash your hands and your child’s hands frequently. Ear infections themselves aren’t contagious. However, respiratory infections that cause ear infections are (contagious).
- Passive or secondhand smoke heightens risk of ear infections 25%. Consider a “no-smoking” home environment.
- Genetics play a big role. Research has determined that approximately 70% of the risk factor for childhood ear infections is inherited.
About Otitis Media
All parents must endure that sinking feeling that comes from attempting to console a child with otitis media. The majority of middle ear infections resolve themselves, but some do not. Some kids frequently suffer from ear infections.
Otitis media is inflammation or infection of the middle ear. They are routinely seen in children younger than three. But everyone can get them.
The two major types of otitis media are:
- acute otitis media with effusion – sudden onset of painful ear infection
- chronic otitis media with effusion – recurring ear infection where fluid remains in middle ear three months or longer.
Effusion is medical terminology for fluid in the middle ear.
Causes of Otitis Media
It should give you comfort to know that ear infections aren’t contagious. On the other hand, otitis media is often the consequence of a cold. So, your little one will not ‘catch’ an ear infection from a sick kid at preschool. Chances are, she will catch cold from the kid.
Ear infections are caused by bacteria and viruses. Your preschooler is at the age where every-germy-thing is fair game to put into her mouth. In addition, he is still growing. His Eustachian tubes and the tubes connecting the throat with the middle ear are small.
Unfortunately, the position and size of children’s tubes do not permit fluid to totally drain. These factors combined with an immune system which is not fully developed greatly increases the risk of infection.
Symptoms of Otitis Media
- Pain – Ear infections are painful, due to pressure on the eardrum caused by trapped fluid. Although pain is the most obvious symptom, children who are not yet verbal might pull on their ear and cry nonstop.
- Fever – Your child’s temperature might spike as high as 104 degrees.
- Irritability – Constant pain may cause your child to be irritable.
- Inadequate Sleep – When your child lays down, the fluid shifts, which heightens pain and may keep her awake.
- Decrease in Appetite – When your child swallows, pressure changes occur in his middle ear. This increases pain and decreases appetite.
- Abnormal Hearing – build-up of fluids muffles sound waves.
How is Otitis Media Diagnosed & Treated?
Ear infections are diagnosed with an otoscope. Your child’s doctor will first examine the eardrum for any indications of infection. If fluid on the ear is suspected, he will use an instrument called the pneumatic otoscope that whooshes a small amount of air toward the eardrum.
Air makes the eardrum move slightly back and forth. In the event of fluid, the eardrum won’t move as promptly.
When treatment is necessary, the main goal is to resolve the ear infection before serious problems develop. For treating the pain, your doctor will likely suggest ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
Note: Never give small children aspirin. They might get Reye’s syndrome, which is a condition that damages the liver and brain and is potentially fatal.
Historically, physicians have prescribed antibiotics for middle ear infections. However, fashion-forward doctors are advocating to quit being so trigger-happy with antibiotics. Bacteria have become hardier and many are resistant to antibiotics.
The majority of ear infections resolve themselves in about a week. However, if your child is six months or younger, antibiotics are still suggested.
Otherwise – treat with heat – and practice “watchful waiting” of the symptoms.
Ouchie Cap Treats with Heat
Warm compresses were pretty awesome in their day? Your mom probably used them on your owies. But, their day has long gone.
No more dashing to the sink and re-warming a compress. No more wrestling with your kid, who doesn’t want to entertain such aggravation. It’s as simple as using kid’s hot & cold packs.
Ouchie Cap is the latest, greatest, natural way to relieve your child’s earache pain. Simply microwave the gel packs and position inside cap.
Put cap on kid.
Warm, moist heat works wonders.