Tag Archives: child health

Ear Infections in Children

Ear infections are a prevalent problem, mainly among younger children resulting in millions of visits to the doctor annually. Most children will experience at least one ear infection during childhood. Ear infections can occur in the ear canal, in the middle ear, or deep behind the eardrum, and can be quite painful.

What is an ear infection?

An ear infection occurs when mucus or fluid becomes trapped in the ear canal, often due to, or occurring with a swollen Eustachian tube. This fluid becomes infected by harmful bacterial or viral germs that are trapped in with the fluid.

Common Symptoms to Watch Out For

Run-of-the-mill ear infection symptoms include:

  • Earache (sometimes intense pain)
  • Ear discomfort and itching
  • Problems hearing
  • Fever
  • Vomiting or upset stomach
  • Fluid leakage from the ear
  • Fussiness in babies or irritability in children

What Causes an Ear Infection?

Some of the things that can cause ear canal swelling and fluid blockages that lead to an infection include:

  • Swimming (a type of ear infection known as swimmer’s ear is very painful and often reoccurs)
  • Upper respiratory infections
  • Colds, flus or allergies
  • Swollen or infected adenoids

Treatment for Ear Infections

Most ear infections are viral by nature, therefor antibiotics will not help the infection. If your doctor determines this is the case, they will suggest treatments to help manage the symptoms of the infection (such as NSAIDs for the pain) and likely instruct you to keep a close eye on the child and bring him or her back if symptoms don’t improve within a week or so. If the doctor suspects the infection is bacterial, they will prescribe a course of antibiotics. Often treatment is case dependant, and may begin with home remedies, managing medications and a watchful eye.

Potential Complications

Complications are rare in healthy children, however, it is possible for the mucus not to properly clear, leading to a condition known as ‘glue ear’, or for your child to have some hearing problems for a week or two after the infection is treated. Another potential complication is a perforated eardrum. These issues often resolve themselves within a few weeks. A more serious potential complication of ear infections occurs when the ear infection is left unmonitored and spreads to nearby places such as the brain or other nearby nerves or tissues. This can be life threatening, so if your child appears to get much sicker when they should be getting better, continues to have a fever or develops any new questionable symptoms, be sure to seek treatment for him or her immediately.

Can You Prevent Ear Infections?

Most of the time, yes, ear infections can be prevented by taking a few key precautions. Try not to allow your small child to put objects in their mouth or share toys. Keep them away from contagious children if possible. Preventing babies from drinking while lying down will ensure liquid doesn’t enter the ear canal where bacteria can grow. Studies show that children who use pacifiers or are exposed to second-hand smoke tend to get ear infections more frequently, so try to limit pacifier use and never let your children be around second-hand smoke. Lastly, keep your child up-to-date on their immunizations as to prevent undue illness that could lead to infections.

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Infectious Childhood Diseases To Watch Out For

  1. Impetigo – Impetigo is a very contagious skin infection that is most often contracted by children, often spreading through groups of children at day-cares and schools. It usually starts as facial sores around the mouth that become crusty upon eruption. It can spread to other parts of the body, and in rare cases develops into a more serious form called ecthyma which burrows into deeper layers of the skin and causes ulcers. Impetigo is treated with antibiotics and children are usually expected to stay home from school so as not to further the spread of the infection.
  2. Kawasaki Disease – is a rare but serious condition that predominantly effects children under 5 years of age. It presents as high and lengthy fever, swelling of the extremities, chapped, red lips and a rash. The symptoms can resemble those of allergies, however if the condition goes undetected it could eventually lead to heart damage or even death, so if your child is experiencing symptoms such as these, be sure to get him or her checked right away and ask your doctor about testing for Kawasaki.
  3. Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) – is the leading cause of acute lung afflictions like bronchitis and pneumonia among babies. The symptoms are similar to those of the flu including congestion, a fever, a cough or wheezing. 2% of small children will develop such serious symptoms they will require hospitalization.
  1. Scarlet Fever – is caused by the same group of bacteria that is responsible for Strep throat. The two infections don’t always go together but can occur simultaneously. Scarlet fever can cause a host of unpleasant symptoms in children including the signature “scarlet colored” rash on various parts of the body, a coated tongue, fever, swollen glands, the chills, aches, vomiting or nausea. While scarlet fever used to be a dreaded and life-threatening disease before the availability of antibiotics, today treatment is as simple as a course of medication.
  2. Whooping Cough – Also known as pertussis, this contagious affliction can be serious, especially for babies (half of the babies who contract it become hospitalized). Early symptoms mimic the flu, then progress to include apnea (pauses in breathing), a bad cough, vomiting, exhaustion and paroxysms (coughing fits) followed by a signature “whooping” noise when the child tries to regain their breath. Luckily the vaccine brings these symptoms down to a minimum or can prevent a child entirely from catching pertussis, so be sure to keep your child’s vaccinations up to date.
  3. Fifth Disease – is caused by parvovirus B19 and can cause an itchy skin rash all over the body, fever, runny nose and headache. It has been known to cause joint pain mainly in women who contract the disease. It can cause complications in rare cases such as anemia in the immunocompromised. It is spread through respiratory secretions, and usually resolves itself within a couple weeks. However, if symptoms are not going away you should talk to your doctor or one of our highly qualified DocChat physicians for treatment options.


To avoid these troublesome afflictions from effecting your child or family, be sure to instill proper hygiene techniques in your little one, such as washing hands frequently with warm water and soap for the length of two run-throughs of the “Happy Birthday” song. Encourage your child not to put their hands near their face or in their mouths when they are in public. The best preventative measure against many childhood illnesses is to make sure your child is up to date on their immunizations and vaccinations. If your child does become ill with any of these conditions, keep them home to recover so they don’t infect other children.

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