Infant Ear and Child Infections and Ear Tubes in Birmingham

A middle ear infection in children (also known as otitis media) is a common inflammation of the middle ear that happens quite often in Birmingham, AL. The reason for this is that in young children, the Eustachian tubes haven’t fully developed yet. The Eustachian tubes run from the ear to the back of the nose and are used to drain fluid from the middle ear. In toddlers, these tubes are often horizontal and not fully opened, resulting in fluid buildup in the middle ear. If your child suffers from chronic earaches, ear infections, sudden hearing loss, or any other ear condition, this could be the reason for it.

The board-certified pediatricians and otolaryngologists at Pediatric ENT Associates in Birmingham, AL have numerous years of experience of infant and child ear infection treatment. They can provide the best options for your toddler. 

About Middle Ear Infections in Infants

Otitis media is not usually something to be alarmed about, but if it occurs chronically, it could lead to more severe consequences. Fluid buildup in the middle ear can cause temporary hearing problems, and if left untreated could result in more permanent hearing loss. If your child is exhibiting symptoms of hearing loss, it is important to take him or her to a pediatrician who can diagnose the problem and prescribe treatment.

Warning Signs and Symptoms of an Ear Infection

Nonverbal Clues Alert You to Distress

Looking for behavioral cues help you determine what is going on. Some cues alert you to a feeling of malaise such as when your child:

  • Acts clingy or needy
  • Is extra cranky or fussy
  • Has trouble sleeping
  • Loses appetite
  • Vomits or has diarrhea

Signs that are more specific to an ear infection include:

pediatric ear infection symptoms in Birmingham, AL

If your child has the symptoms of an earache or an ear infection, you should schedule an appointment with a pediatric otolaryngologist in Birmingham. Some earaches have no signs or symptoms at all. If you are ever unsure, feel free to contact our office anytime.

Who is at Risk of an Ear Infection

There are several factors that make some children more susceptible to getting ear infections than others, some of which are:

  • Poor immune system
  • Age (children between 6 months–3 years of age are more susceptible)
  • Having a cold
  • Lack of breastfeeding
  • Unhealthy air quality (second-hand tobacco smoke)
  • Family history of ear infections (parents or siblings)

The younger a child is when they get their first ear infection, the more likely they are to have repeat infections.

Reasons Your Child Might Need to See An ENT

If symptoms don’t go away after a day or two, a quick trip to a Pediatrician can help diagnose if your child has an ear infection. Children especially need to see an Pediatric ENT/otolaryngologist if they are experiencing more than four infections a year, as this is not healthy. Other circumstances that would require your child to see an ENT are:

  • If they also experience speech delay
  • Existence of persistent fluid in the ears (more than 3 months)
  • Rupturing of the eardrum during an infection
  • When multiple antibiotics are needed for a single infection
  • Your child has medication allergies, severe diarrhea or nausea and vomiting, or if your child is unable to take oral medications

If you are unsure if your child needs to see a Pediatric otolaryngologist, call our Birmingham office, and we can recommend your next step.

Treatments for Otitis Media

An ear infection in children may clear up on its own without any intervention, though in many cases antibiotics will be prescribed. The pain from symptoms can be managed in a variety of ways, including a warm compress to the ear, over-the-counter children’s pain relievers, or sometimes ear drops may be prescribed if the child’s eardrum is intact. However, it is not advised to use eardrops on kids under the age of 2 without medical supervision or approval from a doctor.

The parts of the ear where an ear infection usually takes place is either in the canal, the eardrum (otitis externa), or the middle part of the ear (otitis media). Symptoms can include ear pain, fullness of ear, ringing in the ear, discharge in the ear, nausea, vomiting, and vertigo. Just in case you or your child obtains an unexpected ear infection, here are some steps to follow.

  1. Take appropriate dosage of ibuprofen and motrin every 6-8 hours if necessary for pain relief and fever control.
  2. If symptoms are still occurring after a few days, it is important to seek medical attention. A doctor may prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection.

Ear infections tend to be minor, but should always be taken seriously. If the infection is ignored, we could end up being in an undesirable scenario of hospitalization or even death. When your child starts complaining about an earache, don’t be too worried, but most importantly, don’t ignore the pain. To learn more about ear infections, visit medlineplus.gov

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Treatments for Chronic Infections

If your child in Birmingham suffers from recurrent ear infections, stronger measures may need to be taken. In cases where a toddler contracts multiple ear infections over the course of three months to a year, myringotomy tube placement may be recommended. Chronic fluid buildup in the middle ear can lead to symptoms such as permanent hearing loss if the fluid is not allowed to drain. Myringotomy tubes allow for drainage in kids who are affected by persistent pediatric ear infections and fluid buildup.

Ear infections in children in Birmingham, ALMyringotomy Tubes

Myringotomy tubes, also known simply as ear tubes, are tiny tubes placed into a surgical opening in the eardrum that allows built-up fluid to drain from your child’s ear. Myringotomy tubes are a common treatment for chronic pediatric ear infections in children, and can have many benefits for your child. Proper fluid drainage will prevent future infections and ensure that your child will not suffer ear infection related hearing loss.

The procedure to put in myringotomy tubes is usually done on an outpatient basis, and regular follow-up visits are recommended to check on the kid’s hearing and language development as well as make sure the tubes are serving their purpose. Myringotomy tubes usually fall out on their own after 12 to 18 months, and the hole in the eardrum will close up as well. In certain cases, the tubes will be designed to last longer and will need to be surgically removed. Your pediatric ENT in Birmingham will discuss options with you in order to determine the best course of action for your child. Check our blog post on Myringotomy tubes to know when is it when your child needs ear tubes surgery.

How to Prevent an Ear Infection

At the moment, no prevention protocols exist for ear infections because they may have many different causes. To reduce your child’s risk for pain or infections in the ears: prevent ear infections in children, Birmingham, AL

  • Have them wash their hands frequently
  • Breastfeed infants to strengthen their immune systems
  • Babies should sit upright when being bottle-fed with the caretaker holding the bottle
  • Wean babies from bottles and pacifiers by age 1
  • Keep babies and children away from smoke, as second-hand smoke is very dangerous for children

Vaccines that prevent ear infections are currently in development. We will share any updates about these vaccines as they become available.

FAQs

Q: How common are ear infections in children?
A: Adults can get ear infections, but they are much more common in children. In fact, 5 out of every 6 children will experience an ear infection before they are 3-years-old. Although ear infections are common in children, they can be severe. It’s important to bring your child to a pediatrician or a pediatric ENT if their symptoms worsen or if they experience frequent infections.

Q: What is middle ear fluid?
A: Middle ear fluid is also called “otitis media with effusion,” and it develops from a cold, ear infection, everyday nasal congestion, or an unknown reason. This fluid does not accumulate from bathing or swimming. Middle ear fluid is common, and it occurs in 90% of children under 5-years-old. It often goes away on its own, but if it remains for more than 3 months, your child should see an pediatric ENT as this is considered a chronic issue. Symptoms may not be present, but the noticeable ones are:

  • Inability to hear sounds at normal volumes
  • Delay in speaking
  • Failed hearing screening
  • Difficulty balancing

Q: Is an ear infection contagious?
A: Ear infections are not contagious, but bacterial and viral infections that can cause ear infections are.

Schedule a Pediatric Ear Infection Appointment

If your child has been suffering from a pediatric ear infection in children and its symptoms, such as sudden hearing loss, don’t hesitate to contact the leading specialists at Pediatric ENT Associates in Birmingham, Alabama! To make an appointment for your toddler, just call (205) 831-0101 or fill out our online contact form. We look forward to speaking with you!