Ear Problems in Children

Most ear problems in small children arise from an infection of the outer or middle ear, or because the tube connecting the ear and throat becomes blocked.

Ear infections should be taken seriously, but they are dangerous only if they are not treated promptly; there is a risk that pus may build up behind the ear drum, and eventually burst it, or that infection may spread into a bone behind the ear.

Outer Ear Infection: The skin lining the outer ear canal becomes inflamed when your child has an outer ear infection. This may happen if he swims a lot in chlorinated water. Or because he has poked or scratched his ear and it has become infected.

Children with eczema are especially prone to such infections if they get water in their ears. Symptoms of this are pain in the ear that is worse when the child touches his ear or lies on it, redness in the ear canal, discharge from the ear and itchiness inside the ear.

What can be done: Give your child the recommended dose of paracetamol elixir to relive pain. Make sure that water doesn’t get into the effected ear at bath-time, and just sponge his hair clean. Don’t let your child go swimming until the infection clears up.

Call the doctor, if you think your child has an outer ear infection, he will probably prescribe antibiotic or anti-inflammatory ear drops to clear the infection.

Middle Ear Infection: If your child has a middle ear infection, the cavity behind his ear-drum becomes infected has spread from the throat. The tube that runs from the throat to the ear is very short and narrow in a child, allowing infection to spread easily.

Generally only one ear is infected. Once your child has has a middle ear infection, especially if this happens during his first two years, he is likely to have one in the same ear whenever he has cold or throat infection.

Symptoms of this are painful ear, which may stop your child sleeping, crying and rubbing or tugging at the ear, if your child can’t yet talk well enough to complain, crying, loss of appetite and general signs of illness in young babies, especially after a cold, raised temperature and partial deafness.

What can be done: Try to relieve your child’s earache. Fill a hot water bottle with warm, not hot, water and wrap it in a towel, then let him rest his ear against it. Don’t give a hot water bottle to a baby who is too young to push it away if it is too hot-heat a soft cloth and hold it against his ear instead.

If your child’s ear is very painful, give him the recommended dose of medicine. If you notice a discharge, don’t clear it away or probe his ear- just put clean handkerchief over his ear. Encourage him to rest his head on the affected side, so that any discharge can drain away.

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