Infants are no strangers to ear infections — four out of five children develop at least one ear infection before their third birthday. While ear infections aren’t confined solely to children, they are far more common in kids than adults.
If you’re a parent who wants to know more about ear infections in children, the team at Advanced ENT & Allergy, including Dr. Timothy Queen, Nancy Gibson, FNP-BC, and Kristi Pham, MSN, FNP-BC, focus on the topic here. We offer comprehensive pediatric ENT services, which includes treating ear infections, and we’re here to help parents navigate these early childhood hurdles.
Behind the ear infection
In this month’s blog, we focus on the most common type of ear infection in kids — otitis media — an infection in the middle ear.
This space of the ear lies between the inner ear and the eardrum and houses the small bones responsible for hearing. The middle ear is also connected to the back of the nose via an eustachian tube.
If a virus or bacteria reaches the middle ear via the eustachian tube, the space can become inflamed, and fluids can build up, causing discomfort in many cases.
Reasons young kids are likely to get ear infections
There are two primary reasons infants are more susceptible to ear infections, starting with the fact that their immune systems are still fairly weak and not built up yet, which means that your child is more vulnerable to viruses (think of all the colds and sniffles you deal with). The good news is that their immune system builds up with each cold, flu, and ear infection.
The second reason kids develop ear infections more easily is anatomical — their eustachian tubes haven’t developed completely, leaving them narrow and in a more horizontal position. The result is that kids have difficulty draining fluid from their ears, which allows infections to set in more easily.
Treating ear infections
In most cases, your child’s body can fight off an acute ear infection, and you can manage the symptoms with over-the-counter medications. While we can prescribe antibiotics, it’s important to avoid early antibiotic resistance in children, so we use this approach sparingly.
However, if your child develops chronic media otitis, we may have to step in — chronic indicates recurrent infections and ongoing fluid buildup.
In these cases, we can start with broad spectrum antibiotics and a decongestant to see if that helps clear up the chronic ear infections.
If your child doesn't respond to medications and develops seven infections in one year, five infections per year for two years, or three infections per year for three or more years, we recommend myringotomy tubes. These tubes allow for better drainage in your child’s middle ear to prevent recurrent infections.
To determine your best treatment options, it’s critical that we first analyze your child’s ongoing problems with ear infections. To get started and learn more, contact our Advanced ENT & Allergy office in Newport News, Virginia, to set up an appointment.