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Imagine being in the park with your child and seeing the expression of joy on her face when she turns after you’ve called her name. That look can make your day. But, what if your child suddenly couldn’t hear you say his name? Would you recognize the signs of an ear infection?
The ear is a delicate instrument in the orchestra of the human body. It’s important to protect that instrument so that your child can always hear the symphony of life. Here is a list of the most common ear diseases and the symptoms to look out for to help protect your child’s hearing.
These are, by far, the most common afflictions parents will see. An ear infection is the inflammation of the middle ear, usually caused by bacteria buildup or a blockage in the ear canal.
Children are predisposed to ear infections because they have underdeveloped immune systems. Also, their Eustachian tubes are shorter and more horizontal than an adult’s, which can prevent drainage and airflow.
Swimmer’s ear is a type of ear infection that is caused by bacteria that spreads, often because water or moisture is trapped in the ear.
If your child is fussy, tearful, and tugs on their ear, or complains about being unable to sleep on one of the body, check the ear for redness or inflammation. Other symptoms include fever, trouble hearing sounds, and drainage from the ear.
Always seek advice from a medical professional if you suspect your child has an ear infection. Antibiotics are usually prescribed, but be aware of any allergies your child may have before accepting a prescription or purchasing any medication.
A widely respected home remedy for ear infections in babies, toddlers, and even adults is to put a few drops of breast milk in the ear.
Glue ear occurs when a sticky, glue-like substance builds up inside the middle ear, which reduces the ability to hear. Often, this condition can be caused by an acute ear infection. 1 in 5 children under the age of 2 will experience glue ear after a middle ear infection.
Hearing loss or reduced response to sound—even speaking more softly than normal—is the key symptom. If your child has had prevalent or recurring ear infections, it’s important to watch for indications of hearing loss since a buildup of fluid can occur after an infection.
Initially, the situation is monitored to see if the fluid drains itself. If natural drainage doesn’t occur, a doctor may manually drain the fluid and, in some cases, surgically insert a grommet to allow airflow and reduce the likelihood of fluid forming.
Recently, a treatment called the Otovent Balloon Treatment has been suggested to be the safest and most effective at-home remedy for glue ear. A child blows up a small balloon through the nose and this helps open the Eustachian tube which allows fluid to drain from the middle ear.
The buildup of earwax is very common in children. In fact, about 5% of children produce more earwax naturally, which can lead to a wax buildup. What may surprise you, however, are some of the other causes of buildup.
Earwax makes its way out of the ear canal on its own, even for those children who produce excess earwax. But if children push their fingers into their ears on a regular basis, the wax can get compacted and pushed deep into the canal.
Using cotton swabs to clean your child’s ears can push the earwax deeper into the ear canal and can potentially damage the eardrum.
Wearing earplugs can also push the earwax deeper into the ear.
The most important symptom to watch for is hearing loss. You might also notice some instability or dizziness in your child, or he might complain of pain.
The doctor may suggest over-the-counter wax softening drops or a gentle flushing to clear the blockage.
In loud situations, consider using over-the-ear headphones for your child rather than earplugs. And in the pool, consider using a bathing cap to help prevent water from getting in the ear.
Remember that earwax is a normal product of the body, and the ear canal is designed to clean itself. That said, there’s no harm in cleaning your child’s outer ear with a warm washcloth.
Odds are that your child will have an ear infection. Infections are common, but you can ease your child’s symptoms by getting the expert medical help you need. With more than a decade of experience in treating ear infections, Houston Sinus and Allergy can treat your child. Dr. Nguyen is a national expert, and uses the latest technology and vast experience to reduce pain and prevent other long-term effects caused by ear infections.