Ear infections

​Ear infections are the most common infections in small children. Ear infections typically affect children under 2.

Symptoms

Ear infections are typically associated with upper respiratory tract symptoms such as a blocked nose and cough. Other symptoms may include fever, restlessness, irritability and loose stools. Swallowing and lying down usually make the symptoms worse.

Many but not all children with an ear infection experience earache. Earache is possible even when there is no infection and can be the result of pressure changes caused by the accumulation of mucus, for example. Earache may also be a symptom of pharyngitis.

In a child, earache typically begins at night when the child is lying down. Immediate medical assistance is not required. Manage the pain by giving your child antipyretics or analgesics sold over the counter in pharmacies. Lifting the head of the bed by placing books, for example, under the legs might alleviate the pain further.

Treatment

 

Seek medical assistance the next day. If the diagnosis is obvious, your physician will prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection. However, if the diagnosis is not obvious and the child is not in pain, the situation is monitored. The fever and earache will usually subside a couple of days after starting a course of antibiotics. During that time, ease your child's symptoms by administering antipyretics and/or analgesics.

Today, tympanocentesis, where the tympanic membrane is punctured to drain fluid from the ear, is rare. The procedure can be safely performed and offers relief from earache as the purulent fluid is drained from the middle ear. However, the procedure itself is quite painful for the child and is therefore avoided whenever possible.

A follow-up approximately one month after the first appointment is an essential part of treatment. During the follow-up appointment, your physician ensures that the infection has cleared up. The follow-up can be scheduled to take place either at your local health center or a private practitioner.

If your child has frequent ear infections, adenoidectomy and the insertion of small tubes through the eardrum to keep air pressure normal are considered.