What is an ear infection?

An ear infection happens when the Eustachian tube, the passage connecting the middle ear to the back of the throat, becomes blocked. When this tube is healthy, it fills with air and prevents the build-up of fluid behind the ear drum.  When the tube becomes blocked, due to a respiratory infection or allergies, fluid collects in the middle ear and promotes bacteria growth.  When this occurs, pressure increases on the eardrum and it can no longer vibrate properly.  This can affect hearing and cause mild to extreme pain.

Symptoms of an ear infection include:

  • Ear pain
  • Fever
  • Irritability or crankiness
  • Rubbing or pulling on the ear
  • Trouble hearing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Headache

If you think your child has an ear infection, call your pediatrician right away. Antibiotics are not always necessary so your pediatrician will determine the best treatment.

Treatment for Recurrent Ear Infections

If your child suffers from recurrent ear infections, ask your pediatrician about treatment options.  Your pediatrician may decide to treat your child with a low dose of antibiotics for a prolonged amount of time to prevent future infections.  Another suggestion may be to surgically remove the adenoids if they are at risk of blocking the Eustachian tube. A pediatrician may also suggest inserting small drainage tubes called ear tubes through the ear drum to help release the fluid build-up.  However, the research surrounding the potential benefits of ear tubes is inconclusive.  It is important for you to work with your pediatrician to find the treatment plan that works best for your child and discuss all possible side effects.

Does your child have chronic ear infections?  How have you dealt with this reoccurring problem?

Reviewed by Melissa Hendrickson, Pediatric RN and Director of Health Services at Penfield Children’s Center.

“Ear Infections.” Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. <http://www.chw.org/display/PPF/DocID/33284/Nav/1/router.asp>


“Your Child and Ear Infections.” healthychildren. 3 April 2013. American Academy of Pediatrics. 14 May 2013.

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