This is the most common childhood illness
Besides a cold, a middle ear infection is the most common childhood illness. Babies and toddlers from age 3 months to 3 years often experience one, but they are common up to age 8. And, about 25 percent of those who have one ear infection will have repeated ones.
Since these kids are often too young to speak up, parents are left to guess what is making their child so irritable. Symptoms can range from fussiness when lying down and trouble sleeping to a fever, loss of balance or tugging at an ear. While many times, ear infections will go away in a day or two, it’s always best to call your pediatrician.
“Not all ear infections require antibiotics,” says Dr. Shrinal Vyas, a pediatrician at Advocate Children’s Hospital. “But it is important to talk with your pediatrician, particularly if your child has a fever. Parents shouldn’t ignore the symptoms because they can lead to more serious infections and the possibility of hearing loss.”
If a child is having repeated ear infections, ear tubes may be recommended. These tiny cylinders are inserted into the ear drum to enhance air flow to the middle ear. On average, it is usually done for children between the ages of 1 and 3. The tubes work their way out as the child’s ear grows.
“If a child has three or more ear infections in six months, has fluid buildup in the ear or hearing loss, ear tubes can solve the problem,” says Dr. Vyas. “As the child grows, the ear tubes most often fall out within a year.”
A pediatric ear, nose and throat surgeon performs the procedure. It takes about 15 minutes, and a child is under general anesthesia.
About the Author
Evonne Woloshyn, health enews contributor, is director of public affairs at Advocate Children's Hospital. Evonne began her career as an anchor and reporter in broadcast news. Over the past 20 years, she has worked in health care marketing in both Ohio and Illinois. Evonne loves to travel, spend time with family and is an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan!