An ear infection can really make your child feel miserable. In the past, the course of treatment was often a round of oral antibiotics. However, nowadays, many doctors hold off on prescribing antibiotics right away, especially where it is suspected that the cause of the ear is a virus instead of bacteria. Repeated exposure to antibiotics can build up your child's resistance to those drugs over time making them less effective when they really need them. It is often possible to treat your child’s ear infection at home and watch for symptoms to improve or worsen over 24 hours.
Why Are Children More Susceptible to Ear Infections?
During the cold and flu season, your child may be more susceptible to developing an ear infection. This is because children, especially toddlers, are still developing their immune systems. They also have narrower Eustachian tubes, which can prevent fluid from the middle ear from properly draining if they become swollen during a cold. The backup of fluid provides the ideal environment for bacteria or viruses to grow and multiply and thus, your child’s ear infection is born.
Treating Your Child’s Ear Infection
If your child has ever had an ear infection before, you might already know that they often come on suddenly. And if that onset is in the middle of the night, you can always call the doctor, but there may be a delay before you have a response. If this happens to you, there are things you can do to make your child more comfortable while you wait to hear back from the doctor.
One of the first things you will want to do is make sure that your child does not have a high fever that requires immediate medical attention. You can give your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen that can help reduce the pain and lower the fever. A warm compress on the ear will sometimes help relieve pain from an earache as well.
If your child’s ear pain is severe, the doctor may recommend anesthetic eardrops or decongestants to help reduce congestion that could be causing the ear pain. You might also be given a prescription for antibiotics, but be asked to hold off for a few days to see if the ear pain starts to go away or it becomes work.
The doctor will usually prescribe antibiotics right away for children under six months because it is hard to tell how much pain they are having. It is also very risky for children of that age to have ear infections because it could affect their hearing.
The doctor may tell you to immediately begin antibiotics for children over six months if:
- He or she can see that the middle ear is inflamed and full of fluid and is certain there is an infection
- Your child has a fever over 102F
- There is drainage from the ear
- The pain is extreme
It is a good idea to speak with your child’s physician ahead of time. For instance, ask during a wellness visit what their protocol is for treating a child’s ear infection so that you know what to expect.