You see your child pulling at her ear and she doesn’t seem to be responding to sounds. These signs are a couple of the symptoms of an ear infection, a condition that is common in young children.

Timely Treatment for Ear Infections

If you suspect your child might have an ear infection, bring him in to your local MedExpress center. Our friendly, welcoming medical team can quickly evaluate your child so you can start treatment to get your little one feeling better fast. 

What is an Ear Infection?

An ear infection – or acute otitis media – can occur when the middle ear becomes inflamed from a viral infection or allergies and causes fluid to build up behind the ear drum. This fluid buildup can also be caused from swelling in the Eustachian tubes, tubes found in the middle ear, or surrounding tissues. Over time the fluid can become infected by bacteria. 

The Role of Eustachian Tubes
The Eustachian tubes go from each middle ear to high in the back of your throat, where they can open and close to regulate air pressure and drain fluid in the ears. 

Children are more susceptible to ear infections because their Eustachian tubes are narrower and more horizontal, making it more difficult for the tubes to drain. 

 

Symptoms of Ear Infections

An ear infection may be present without any apparent symptoms. Or, your child may exhibit a range of these:

  • Ear pain, which can be worse when lying down.
  • Tugs or pulls at ear.
  • Cries more than usual.
  • Fails to respond to sounds.
  • Is unusually irritable.
  • Has a fever.
  • Has drainage from the ear.
  • Has a headache.

Although ear infections are more common in children, adults can get them, too. If you notice any of the above symptoms after you’ve had a cold or a flare up of seasonal allergies, visit MedExpress for an evaluation. 

Diagnosing Ear Infections

To diagnose an ear infection, your MedExpress medical team will need information about symptoms and will perform a physical exam. During the exam, the physician, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner will use an otoscope to look inside the ears.

If the ear looks inflamed, a pneumatic otoscope may be used to confirm whether there is fluid behind the eardrum. A pneumatic otoscope gently puffs air against the eardrum, which should cause the eardrum to move. If the eardrum doesn’t move, or only moves a little, then that means the middle ear is filled with fluid. 

Treating Ear Infections

Treatment for an ear infection depends upon the patient’s age and the severity of the infection. Some ear infections get better without the use of antibiotics. 

Wait and Watch
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a “wait-and-see” approach in the appropriate patient, depending on age and severity of symptoms. Our medical team can evaluate children to determine the appropriate treatment - whether that is medication right away or "wait-and-see."

Antibiotics
If it’s determined that a bacterial infection is present, it may be necessary to treat the bacterial infection with antibiotics. The antibiotics prescribed will be based on age, severity of infection, and whether the patient has an allergy to penicillin.  

Managing Discomfort
While you wait until the infection clears, there are a couple of things you can do to manage the discomfort. First, you can try placing a warm compress over the affected ear. Next, you can use ibuprofen or acetaminophen to lessen the pain.