Ear infections are the most frequently diagnosed childhood ailment after the common cold. By the age of three, most children will have suffered from at least one ear infection. Unfortunately, many adults do not know much about ear infections. By learning a little more about what causes infections, it may be easier to soothe your child’s aches and maybe even help prevent infections from occurring.
What Causes Ear Infections?
Ear infections are usually caused by bacteria or viruses. In many cases, the child will develop an upper respiratory condition and the germs will spread through the body and reach the ear. The usually air filled ear drum will fill up with mucus as the body attempts to fight off the germs. The mucus and inflammation that result from the body trying to fight the infection are what eventually causes the child pain and can lead to further issues. The ears become blocked and the added pressure also causes pain.
Why Are Children More Prone to Ear Infections?
Children’s Eustachian tubes, which are the tubes that lead to the inner ears, are differently shaped and are shorter than the Eustachian tubes in adults’ ears. These differences make it easier for bacteria to get into the inner ears. The tubes are also narrower and stiffer, which makes it easier for them to become blocked with mucus.
Preventing Ear Infections
The best way to prevent ear infections is by preventing children from contracting upper respiratory infections. Things like exposure to second hand smoke and exposure to other children that are ill may make children more prone to respiratory and ear infections. Having children wash their hands often and allowing them ample time to recover when ill may help to prevent ear infections. Breast feeding instead of bottle feeding also seems to help lower risks of ear infections.
Treating Ear Infections
Ear infections can sometimes be treated using antibiotics, which may be especially helpful in children under the age of two that may form lasting hearing difficulties as a result of an ear infection. In older children, it is often best to wait two or three days to see if the ear infection will be resolved without treatment before trying antibiotics. If there is a high fever or discharge, it is important to seek medical attention quickly.