Ear infections are common in young children. Kids usually experience more ear infections when they are younger because children have weaker immune systems. The eustachian tubes that allow drainage from the ear are also smaller and more horizontal, so it's easier for children's ears to become clogged and infected.
Because ear infections can be serious if they are not treated and because children struggle to handle the pain, parents of children who have frequent or chronic infections are often desperate for answers on how to make the problem better.
Learn about what causes frequent ear infections and what you can do to help treat and prevent them.
Many times, ear infections happen alongside other minor illnesses. For example, if your child gets a cold, drainage from the ear and sinus area is already struggling. This makes it easier for the ear to become clogged, leading to infection.
Children with allergies are also more prone to infections because the inflammation from an allergic reaction can also cause swelling around the eustachian tube of the ear. Chronic infections are more likely with allergies because allergy symptoms are often ongoing for children, so the ears are always under more pressure.
Genetics can also play a role. Some families seem to have children who all struggle with ear infections, while other children may never have that issue.
Sometimes, ear infections may occur on their own - there is no cause besides the limited drainage from an ear that is not yet matured. Some things can increase the risk, including exposure to water, sticking things in the ear, exposure to secondhand smoke, or being in day care where your child is more likely to be exposed to higher levels of germs.
Sometimes, you can't do anything to prevent an ear infection. However, when your child is more prone to them, you can learn some tricks to help reduce the risk. You might:
- Limit use of bottles and pacifiers when lying down. These can place more pressure on the ear and restrict ear drainage.
- Run an air purifier in your home. Air purifiers help remove irritants that can cause respiratory issues and increased mucus production. You can also improve air quality by stopping smoking or only smoking out of doors.
- Wash your hands and your child's hands when going to and leaving preschool or day care. This helps to prevent the spread of germs at home.
If your child already has a cold, you might run a humidifier in their room to improve breathing and help with recovery time. The faster your child recovers from illness, the less likely the ear will become inflamed and infected as a result.
Your doctor will examine your child's ears to assess the severity of the ear infection. Sometimes, antibiotics help to get rid of the infection, but antibiotics are not always needed.
However, if your child has had several infections in a short period of time, stronger antibiotics might be necessary. Usually, recurring ear infections are not recurring at all; they are the same infection that doesn't entirely go away.
For children who do have trouble with ear infections coming back several times a year, you may need to consider ear tubes. These are put in through a small surgical procedure to prevent the build-up of fluid that leads to infection.
Some ear nose and throat specialists may also recommend removal of the adenoids and even the tonsils, but these methods are only for children who show significant need. These surgeries are more invasive and the recovery takes longer than placing ear tubes.
For more information, contact us at Wilmington Ear Nose & Throat Associates, P.A.