Thursday, December 22, 2016

Ear Infections in Children

Dr. Ali Ghahary is an experienced physician in Greater Vancouver, practicing at Burnaby’s Brentwood Medical Clinic – a combined family practice and walk-in clinic – where he sees patients ranging in age from elderly to infants. Children have accounted for over 80% of doctor visits in North America in the last year alone, with 5 out of 6 children in Canada having had at least one ear infection before they turn 3 years old, and it is one of the leading reasons for a parent to take their child to see a physician.

As most ear infections in children occur before they are able to fully speak, it is important to watch out for the signs and symptoms that may indicate that your child has developed an ear infection. These signs and symptoms include pain, constant tugging at the ears, unusual fussiness, difficulty sleeping, difficulty with balance, trouble hearing, and a fever.

Children are more prone to developing ear infections than adults due to their immune systems not being fully developed, thus making them unable to fight infections as well as adults. Eustachian tubes in children are also smaller than those in adults, which makes the drainage of ear fluid also difficult. Ear infections usually develop in children as a secondary infection and are commonly the result of a child having had a cold or other upper respiratory infection.

There are three types of ear infections, all with varying symptoms. The most common form of ear infection is Acute Otitis Media (AOM). AOM affects the middle ear, and usually results in it being swollen, causing fluid to get trapped behind the eardrum. A child with AOM will notice pain and may develop a fever. The second most common form of ear infection is Otitis Media with Effusion (OME). OME typically happens once an ear infection has been treated and is no longer present, but results in fluid remaining trapped behind the ear drum. There are usually no symptoms present with OME. Lastly, Chronic Otitis Media with Effusion (COME). This is a result of fluid remaining in and failing to drain from the middle ear, even when there is no infection present. However, Chronic Otitis Media can make it difficult to treat new ear infections that may develop, and can also have a significant impact a child’s hearing.

In order to diagnose whether or not your child may have an ear infection, Vancouver physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary will ask a child’s parent or guardian a series of questions about their general health, and will also look in the child’s ear using a lighted instrument scientifically known as an Otoscope. Upon inspection, if the eardrum looks swollen or red, that is usually indicative that an infection is present. To treat the infection, Vancouver physicians will prescribe a course of antibiotics for 7 to 10 days – usually Amoxicillin – as well as recommend over-the-counter pain relievers such as Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen to help reduce pain, inflammation and ever. In cases where the physician is unable to make a definitive diagnosis of an infection, they may require that you wait a couple of days to see if the child’s symptoms improve. If the child is not better within 48 to 72 hours, then antibiotic therapy will be started. Once antibiotic therapy has begun, your child should begin to feel better within a few days time. If your child is still feeling unwell after approximately 3 days of being antibiotics, it is important to let your physician know as they may need to prescribe a different antibiotic.

In order to prevent ear infections it is important to practice good hygiene including frequent hand washing. It is also a good idea to get your child vaccinated against the flu, and to ensure that they are not around other sick children. For more information on the flu vaccine and ways to prevent bacterial infections, click here. Dr. Ali Ghahary can also be found on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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