Did you know that ear infections are the second most commonly diagnosed illness in children in the U.S. just behind the common cold?
And while parents see ear infections all the time in their children, chronic ear infections can lead to problems not only related to your child's hearing but also related to their speech and even their balance.
Most ear infections are caused by congestion in the Eustachian tube, a tube located in the middle ear that runs from the ear to the back of the throat. Most occur in children with allergies or after suffering a cold or upper respiratory infection when nasal passages are congested. These blockages keep fluid in the ear where air should be, and in turn, this builds pressure in the ear and causes painful inflammation, headaches and a loss of appetite.
While most ear infections clear on their own, it is important to visit your doctor if symptoms last more that a day and your child is less than six months of age, or if there is discharge of fluid from the ear. Many children will be irritable and have difficulty sleeping and will tug at their ears. Babies will often refuse to feed, since the suctioning motion of a bottle will create a painful buildup of pressure in their ears.
To soothe discomfort from ear infections, a parent may administer over-the-counter pain medications such as acetaminophen or naproxen for inflammation. Parents should avoid giving their child aspirin, especially after an infection as this has been linked to Reye's syndrome. A warm, damp washcloth on the ear may also help the ear drain and alleviate pain from the pressure.
If symptoms are chronic, it may be best to get the child routine hearing tests and checkups from a speech pathologist to avoid any developmental issues caused by hearing problems.
So with the kids back in school and the flu season upon us, parents should make sure to watch our for those signs that may be impairing their children.