It’s estimated that five out of six children will have at least one ear infection before the age of three years. In fact, ear infections are the most common reason a parent brings a young child to the doctor.
The ear, nose, and throat specialists at ENT of New Orleans, with offices in Chalmette, Harvey, New Orleans, and Marrero, Louisiana, can accurately diagnose your child’s ear infection and determine what solution will give them lasting relief.
An ear infection (otitis media, or OM) is specifically an inflammation affecting the middle ear. It’s caused by fluid that builds up behind the eardrum, typically in response to bacteria. Children are more prone to ear infections than adults, due to the development of the ear canal and how drainage is affected as they grow.
AOM is the most common ear infection and has the hallmark symptoms of an OM. Your child may run a fever, cry, pull at their ear, have balance issues, etc. This is because parts of the middle ear are infected and swollen, causing fluid to stay trapped behind the eardrum.
Sometimes, after an ear infection has run its course, some fluid stays trapped behind the eardrum. Your child might not have any symptoms, but OME is why you should always go back for a followup appointment after a bad ear infection. The doctor can use a special instrument to see the fluid behind the eardrum.
If fluid remains in the middle ear long after an infection ends, or keeps recurring, even without an active infection, it’s called COME. This can make it a lot harder for your child to fight off a new infection, and can affect their hearing.
Bacteria from a sore throat, cold, or other upper respiratory infection can spread to the middle ear. Even if an upper respiratory infection is caused by a virus, bacteria can be attracted by the environment, which is microbe-friendly. The bacteria can then migrate to the middle ear where they generate a secondary infection, causing fluid buildup behind the eardrum.
There are some things you can do to help keep your child from getting ear infections. Don’t put them to bed with a bottle, and don’t allow them to be around people who are smoking or in smoke-rich environments.
If your child is extremely prone to ear infections (getting as many as five or six infections annually) their doctor may talk to you about inserting tubes in their ears to keep fluid from building up. Tubes usually only stay in place for six to nine months and are checked on regularly until they fall out on their own.
For continued and/or very severe ear infections, the doctor might recommend removing your child’s adenoids to prevent infectious spread. This generally is only done for children under the age of seven years, as that’s when the adenoids begin to shrink (in adults they’re simply a vestigial organ that serves no purpose).
To learn more about childhood ear infections, schedule a consultation with the team at ENT of New Orleans by calling the location closest to you, or requesting an appointment online.