Your 3-year-old child wakes up, they look sick. They are fussy and irritable. They may have a fever. They might be holding or pulling at their ears. You know something is wrong with them but you may not be able to pinpoint exactly what it is. Maybe an ear infection but how would you know?
What is an ear infection?
An ear infection is known as acute otitis media. It happens when fluid builds up behind the eardrum. This can be caused by bacteria or viruses and often comes after an upper respiratory infection. This causes pressure and pain and can also affect hearing. At times the infection and pressure are so great that the eardrum can rupture causing the fluid to drain out of the ear. While that can sound scary, it is a very treatable problem and often heals on its own. Children are more susceptible because their anatomy is smaller and this can prevent adequate drainage from the middle ear and surrounding structures.
How do you diagnose it?
Diagnosis is made by taking a thorough history about your child. A quick physical exam is done to visualize the eardrum to see if fluid is present. Sometimes fluid is present but may not be causing issues and can resolve on its own. This is called an effusion.
How do you treat it?
Treatment maybe necessary if the fluid looks infected. This is can be done with antibiotics. If your child gets repeated infections it may be time to consider drainage tubes. Ear tubes are placed in your child’s eardrum through a quick surgical procedure and allows the fluid that normally accumulates behind the eardrum to flow out through the ear canal. This can prevent the number of and the severity of ear infections. A discussion with the provider will determine if your child will benefit from these.
We understand the impact of ear infections on a child’s life. Our providers at West River Ear, Nose & Throat are happy to help, often able to accommodate same day appointments for you and your child’s needs. Call us today at (605) 791-0602.