Young children and infants are prone to having multiple ear infections because their Eustachian tubes are too small and horizontal (instead of slanty like those of adults), which makes it harder for fluid to drain away.
The blockage of the eustachian tube by fluid then leads to bacterial or viral infection in the middle ear (otitis media). The fluid can occur due to anatomic factors — triggered by colds, allergies, and other respiratory infections.
Also, the Adenoids in kids, located in the back of the nose near the opening of the eustachian tubes, can block the tubes if they get swollen or inflamed, which can cause an infection.
Moreso, the Adenoids in kids, is relatively larger than that of adults, which can also obstruct eustachian tubes.
How to Know If Your Kid Has an Ear Infection?
Ear infections can occur in kids before they’re able to talk. If your child isn’t able to communicate yet, look out for the following signs that suggest otitis media:
- Frequent tugging or pulling the ears
- Fussiness and crying
- Having a hard time sleeping
- Fluid draining from the ear
- Trouble hearing or reacting to certain sounds
Reducing The Chances of Ear Infection in Your Child
Some kids may grow up without having any ear infection. Other kids may grow up having a series of ear infections, but it’s nothing to worry about. Here’s what you can do to reduce the chances of your child getting otitis media.
- If you choose to breastfeed your baby, continue for at least six months so that the baby can benefit from the antibodies in your breast milk.
- When bottle-feeding your baby, ensure that he is kept in an upright position. Don’t bottle-feed while he is lying flat.
- Reduce the use of a pacifier by the time he’s six months old. Some studies have discovered that it can increase the risk of ear infections.
- Don’t expose your child to smoke. It can impair the function of the eustachian tubes and increase the risk of otitis media.
- Ensure that your child gets the Prevnar 13 vaccine that protects against ear infections by 13 subtypes of Streptococcus bacteria, including the annual flu shot.
- Let the paediatrician or ENT specialist handle the removal of earwax. Cotton swabs and other objects can clog and irritate the ear, which can lead to infection.
What Happens If Your Child Keeps Getting Ear Infections?
Regardless of the above precautions, some kids may still have frequent middle ear infections – as many as five to six times a year.
When this happens, your ENT doctor may want to wait for a few months to see if the condition will heal on its own – sometimes it does. When it doesn’t heal on its own, the ENT specialist may treat the condition with antibiotics.
And if that doesn’t work, the doctor will recommend a surgical procedure that installs a small ventilation tube in the eardrum to improve airflow and help fluid to flow in the middle of the ear.
The installed tubes will stay in place for between six to nine months. Also, this solution will require follow-up visits until the tubes fall out.
If the tube installation doesn’t prevent infections, the doctor may consider removing the adenoids to stop the disease from spreading to eustachian tubes.
Just like any other infection, not treating a middle ear infection will result in complications like hearing loss (even in children) and delayed speech and language development.
Ask your ENT doctor for a hearing test in Malaysia. Moreover, there is a risk of the infection spreading to the mastoid bone and other tissues.
Always seek help from an ENT specialist and follow the treatment recommendations to help your child cope with the symptoms and avoid complications.
Visit our nearest branches in Shah Alam, Johor Bahru and Melaka and talk to our ENT specialists for more professional advice. For more information, feel free to get in touch with us.