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Wait-and-see often successful with ear infections

| January 23, 2013 6:00 AM

The baby got fussy. That’s all the new mom noticed. He just wasn’t himself, if he really had a sense of self at six months of age.

She thought he was just being crabby. He’d had a small cold, but it wasn’t more than the sniffles and they had gone away.

Then in the middle of the night he woke up and wouldn’t stop crying. The next morning he had a fever, diarrhea and vomited.

He didn’t want his bottle and started pulling on his ear. Then, the mother saw a little fluid, kind of light yellow draining from his ear and she knew instantly that he had an ear infection and called the pediatrician.

This is a common scenario. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, three out of four children will get an ear infection before the age of three. They typically start with a viral infection (i.e. a common cold) or unhealthy bacterial growth.

Sometimes the middle ear becomes inflamed and causes fluid buildup behind the eardrum, accord to academy officials.

In other cases, the Eusta-chian tubes (the narrow passageways connecting the middle ear to the back of the nose) become swollen.” The healthychildren.org website says.

“Children are more prone to both of these problems for several reasons. The passages in their ears are narrower, shorter and more horizontal than the adult versions.

Because it’s easier for germs to reach the middle ear, it’s also easier for fluid to get trapped there. And just as children are still developing, so are their immune systems.

Once the infection takes hold, it’s harder for a child’s body to fight it than it is for a healthy adult’s, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Although adults do get ear infections, according to the mayoclinic.com, common signs for a grown-up are ear pain, drainage of fluid from the ear, diminished hearing and sore throat. Symptoms of an ear infection may be signs of a number of different conditions so it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis from your healthcare practitioner.

As for the baby, the pediatrician may suggest the wait-and-see approach recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians.

If the child is otherwise healthy, the clinician may suggest waiting for the first 48 to 72 hours to see if the infection will clear up on its own, which it often does.

The practitioner will advise you on how to make the child comfortable perhaps by recommending a warm compress on the ear, or an over-the-counter pain medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

Please remember that children under two should not be given aspirin unless your healthcare provider specifically instructs you to do so.

As much as we like to keep germs away from ourselves and our children, we know it’s not possible, but what is possible is to reduce the risks of infections.

So, keep him away from second-hand smoke. It’s a huge contributor to childhood illness. Quitting smoking is as important for your children, grandchildren or even the neighbor kids as it is to you.

Bad hygiene is a huge contributor to the problem. Bottles have more surface area for germs, so as soon as your child is able to use a sippy cup the better.

Also, teach your children, as young as possible, to wash their hands properly and regularly.

Breast feeding your infant for the first year is strongly recommended. So is getting an annual flu shot, aside from protecting against this year’s strain, it can help prevent ear infections.

Kathy Hubbard is a trustee on Bonner General Hospital Foundation Board. She can be reached at 264-4029 or kathyleehubbard@yahoo.com.

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