Due to weakened immunity babies are prone to many types of infection. Middle ear infection is quite common in babies which are medically described as otitis media. The tubes present inside the ears become filled with fluid which can cause pain and partial loss of hearing. Young children are often seen pulling at their ears and intense crying nature due to ear infection. They also have trouble in sleeping and balancing difficulties due to this problem. Mild forms of baby ear infection will resolve without any treatment but doctors would prescribe medicines for relieving from pain. Antibiotics are prescribed for severe ear infection. In rare cases surgery is done for repairing the tubes inside.
Types of ear Infection :
Acute otitis media :
This is the mild type of infection in which there will be pain and redness in the eardrum. The babies become irritable and are often seen tugging their ears due to pus formation. Mild antibiotics are given for treating AOM in babies and toddlers.
Otitis Media with Effusion :
In this type of ear infection, either one or both the ears are filled with fluid like pus without pain or redness. This infection OME is caused due to respiratory tract infection or due to allergic reactions on the baby. This type do not require any treatment often and only on severe cases antibiotics are needed.
Otitis Externa (Swimmer’s ear) :
This is the infection that develops on the outer canal of the ear. It causes itchiness, redness and the ear becomes swollen and painful. At times there can also be pus like discharge from the infected ear. Antibiotics are to be given for treating otitis externa.
Baby ear infection mostly is caused by bacteria or after the child had a cold or respiratory tract infection. There is every chance for the bacteria to enter into the ear canal or middle ear causing infection. Very often ear infection is caused by microorganisms like bacteria or virus that spreads cold on children.
Structure of Ear :
Ear is made of three parts namely outer, middle and inner ear. Pinna is the name of the outer ear we see with the curvature flap, which leads down to the ear canal which then extends down to the eardrum. The eardrum is nothing but a soft membrane that divides the outer ear from that of middle ear.
Infections develop on the middle ear present between the eardrum and the internal ear. Sometimes it may also occur on the Eustachian tube which is a tiny tube that runs from upper throat to the middle of the ear. Adenoids are tiny pad like tissue found at the back of your nose and their job is to fight against bacteria and destroy them when they enter into your mouth.
The baby will often be tugging his ears and will cry more than usual. He may not get proper sleep and for some babies there will be fluid drain from the ears. He may or may not have problems in hearing and talking and are often seen irritable. There can be fever and headache and problems in balancing on some children.
Why baby is at more risk for getting ear infections than adults?
The development of ears is not complete in babies and hence fluid or accumulated water from the Eustachian tubes may not be drained properly. Sometimes the tube gets clogged with mucus due to cold which again traps the fluid inside leading to ear infection. Secondly, the baby’s immune system is weak when compared with adults and hence adenoids may not function effectively in trapping bacteria.
Your doctor will examine the child and ask about his health condition. He would then use a special instrument called otoscope for checking the eardrum. If the eardrum is bulging and swollen with red color it indicates ear infection. He would also use pneumatic device for checking the fluid content of the eardrum. The doctor will have to consider factors like age of the child, his health condition and severity of infection before giving medications.
For mild range of infection like otitis media no antibiotics are given and he would give painkillers for relieving the symptoms of pain. Itr would also help the child to sleep well. But in case of bacterial infection, antibiotics like amoxicillin are given for a course. The child will be given ibuprofen for getting relief from fever and pain.
Many times, ear infection gets resolved on its own without giving antibiotics. Giving antibiotics makes the child resistant to the drug in the early age itself. Follow the full course of medications as prescribed by your doctor even if your child has no symptoms. It might take few days for your child to get well with the help of medications.
If the child gets repeated ear infections that do not respond to any medicine then he may consider doing surgery. He would place a small tube into the eardrum for improving the airflow and for preventing the fluid to build inside. The tiny tubes will stay on the ear of the child for 6-9 months which will finally fall out on their own.
The child should be properly vaccinated as per the schedule. More particularly the child should have got a shot of vaccine for flu each year. Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine also called as PCV13 should be given for preventing many infections from bacteria.
Do not expose your child to cigarette smoke and avoid putting the child down with a bottle, since he may inhale more of air leading to infection. Safeguard your baby from sick babies since there is chance for getting infection from the sick child.