Did you know that 5 out of every 6 children are likely to have an ear infection by the time they’re 3 years old?

An ear infection is a form of inflammation in the middle ear caused by bacteria build-up behind the eardrum. Ear infections can happen when your child develops a cold, throat infection, or any other upper respiratory infection. The bacteria from these infections can then spread to the middle ear, causing an ear infection. 

Even though ear infections can affect anyone, they’re more common in children than adults

Toddlers tend to get ear infections more than adults because their shorter, more horizontal eustachian tubes (tubes in their ear) allow bacteria and viruses access their middle ear easily. Paired with the fact that these tubes are narrower in children, they’re more likely to get blocked and cause infection.

An ear infection can be painful and uncomfortable for your little one. It can also make it hard for them to hear. 

While most ear infections don’t cause long-term complications, recurring ear infections can lead to serious complications like impaired hearing, speech or development delays, and more.

Unfortunately, it can be hard for parents to notice when their child has an ear infection, especially if they’re too young to know how to talk. That’s why it’s important to understand the symptoms of an ear infection and how you can treat it.

Read on to learn the signs and symptoms of ear infections in children, how to treat and prevent ear infections, and when it’s time to talk to an online doctor through myCallADoc.

What are the Symptoms of an Ear Infection in Children?

Ear infections are categorized into 3 primary types. Each type of ear infection has their own specific symptoms.

  1. Chronic Otitis Media with Effusion (COME)
  2. Otitis Media Effusion (OME), and 
  3. Acute Otitis Media (AOM)

Chronic Otitis Media with Effusion (COME)

  • Most children suffer from Acute Otitis Media ear infections. 
  • This type of infection affects their middle ear, causing it to swell and trap fluid behind their eardrum.
  • If your child has this type of infection, they will likely experience pain in their ear and develop a fever. 

Otitis Media with Effusion 

  • Occurs when your child develops an infection that traps fluid behind their eardrum.
  • In most cases, children with OME will never show any symptoms. Our online pediatricians or ENT specialists will be able to detect the fluid. 

Chronic Otitis Media with Effusion

  • Occurs when fluid accumulates behind your child’s middle ear for an extended period.
  • In some cases, this condition may not be accompanied by an infection. When your child gets this infection, they may develop hearing loss.  

How to Tell if Your Toddler Has an Ear Infection

Pain is the primary sign of an ear infection in toddlers, babies, and children. But if your child isn’t old enough to talk or is unable to tell you that their ear hurts, here are common telltale signs to look out for:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Irritability and crying
  • Pulling and tugging at their ear
  • Fever
  • Loss of balance
  • Fluid draining from their ear
  • Difficulty hearing

Contact our online pediatricians as soon as you notice any of the above signs of an ear infection. The most significant telltale sign is when your child tugs on their ear while crying. 

When Should You See Your Doctor for an Ear Infection?

If left untreated, ear infections can have negative long-term health impacts for your child. That’s why getting a diagnosis by our online pediatricians right away is the best way to find out if your child has an ear infection and receive quick treatment.

Treating the symptoms of an ear infection in toddlers and children depends on the type of ear infection they have. In many cases, your pediatrician may use the wait-and-see approach before giving out an antibiotic, especially for mild ear infections. 

Your doctor may recommend child-safe, over-the-counter pain killers to help relieve your child’s ear infection symptoms.

If your child has severe middle ear infection symptoms, your pediatrician may treat this by prescribing antibiotics like amoxicillin. 

In some cases, it’s difficult for your doctor to definitely diagnose an ear infection, especially if your child doesn’t show fever or severe ear pain. This challenge is more typical for children between 6 months and 2 years old. In these special cases, your doctor may have you observe your child for around 72 hours before starting any antibiotics.

Seek emergency treatment if your child’s temperatures are higher than 104F, or if they are bleeding from the ears, have muscle weakness, or neck stiffness. 

How to Prevent an Ear Infection

Below are some tips for lowering the risk of your child developing an ear infection: 

Stay Up to Date on Vaccinations

  • Children who have received all the necessary vaccines have low chances of getting ear infections. 
  • Make sure your child is up-to-date on the 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine keeps them safe from around 13 infection-causing bacteria. 

Practice Good Hygiene

  • Many ear infections are caused by bacteria.
  • Keeping your children’s hands clean protects them from flu, cold, and respiratory infections, which in turn can prevent them from developing secondary ear infections.

Learn more tips on teaching your kids good hygiene habits >

Avoid Secondhand Smoke Exposure

  • Exposing your child to secondhand smoke increases their probability of getting an ear infection by 3 times — not to many the many other negative health effects of second hand smoke.

Talk to an Online Pediatrician Today!

Ear infections can be painful and uncomfortable. Understanding the primary signs your baby or toddler has an ear infection is the number one step in getting your young child the treatment they need. 

And you can help prevent ear infections by keeping your child up-to-date with their vaccines, helping them practice good hygiene, and keeping them away from secondhand smoke.

And although ear infections are preventable, they’re still common occurrences in young kids — especially during cold and flu season. That’s where having 24/7 access to an online pediatrician or virtual ENT doctor is one of the most convenient and affordable ways to give your child fast treatment when they need it.

Through myCallADoc telemedicine services, you don’t have to leave the house or take your child out of school (or miss work) to see the doctor for an ear infection. Once you sign up to become a member, you can speak to a board-certified ENT doctor or pediatrician over your phone, laptop, or tablet in minutes. 

Our virtual pediatricians can diagnose and treat over 50 illnesses and conditions, and can even write a prescription and send it straight to your local pharmacy. They’re available 24/7, 365 days a year, so you can get fast diagnosis and treatment even if it’s the middle of the night or you’re on vacation.

Don’t wait to get your child the ear infection relief they need. Learn more about our affordable online pediatrician services today >

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