What Makes Children More Susceptible to Ear Infections?

Each year, especially during cold and flu season, children get many more ear infections than adults. Our compassionate Family Care team can diagnose and treat your child’s earaches. First, understand why kids are so susceptible to these types of infections.

The perfect storm

A child’s eustachian tubes, the canals that connect the middle ear to the upper throat and back of the nasal cavity, are shorter and more horizontal than in adults. As a result, fluid drains more slowly, even under healthy circumstances. When blocked with mucus due to respiratory illness, the fluid may hardly drain at all. Add that to the fact that your child’s immune system is still developing and can’t fight infections as well as an adult’s, and there’s a perfect storm for earaches. 

Young children, especially between the ages of two and four, seem to suffer earaches most frequently. The youngest ones can’t verbalize their symptoms, but they may tug on their ear to indicate pain. If that happens, you should contact your doctor.

What causes an ear infection?

An ear infection can be caused by either a virus or a bacterium, often introduced due to:

When the middle ear fills with pus (infected fluid), this fluid pushes on the eardrum, causing pain. The eustachian tubes may swell, preventing their ability to drain fluid into the throat, and so the infection remains within the ear.

How we diagnose an ear infection

The first thing Dr. Khalil and Dr. Elkholy do when diagnosing your children’s ear infections is listen. They’ll ask you about their general health, whether they’ve suffered from a cold or sore throat recently, and if you’ve seen them pull at their ears or otherwise fuss with that general region.

We use a variety of tests to diagnose an ear infection, including:

Otoscope. The doctor can view your child’s eardrum through a lighted instrument known as an otoscope. A swollen, red eardrum generally signals infection.

Pneumatic otoscope. The doctor may use a pneumatic otoscope to blow a little bit of air into the ear canal to test for fluid behind the eardrum. A normal eardrum moves more easily than an eardrum with fluid behind it.

Tympanometry. The doctor may also employ a diagnostic test called tympanometry, which uses air pressure and sound to measure the eardrum’s flexibility and determine if a blockage exists. 

A prescription for pain 

While many earaches go away on their own, sometimes Dr. Khalil or Dr. Elkholy prescribe an antibiotic. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and American Academy of Family Physicians offer the following guidelines for children from six months through 12 years of age with uncomplicated Acute Otitis Media (earaches):

How to prevent earaches in the first place

We recommend the following to help protect your child from developing earaches: 

Our knowledgeable team at Family Care can diagnose your children’s earaches to help ease their pain and speed their recovery. We offer convenient on-site lab services and testing. Simply give us a call or book an appointment online for either the Patterson or Totowa, New Jersey office.

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