Pain, Fever and Ear Infections in Children

Children suffering from ear infections should be seen by their physician, and for good reason!

If your child complains of ear pain and has a fever, chances are she’s suffering from a common childhood ailment, otitis media, otherwise known as an ear infection. Ear infections require medical attention for many reasons; they can be extremely painful, and without treatment can lead to complications such as meningitis. Some research points out that recurrent ear infections can lead to hearing loss and in turn, delay in speech development. Still, while taking a child to the doctor is necessary, giving a course of antibiotics may not be, explains Dr. Jeremy Friedman, author of Canada’s Toddler Care Book.

“The problem is about half of ear infections are caused by viruses and they will get better on their own without antibiotics. For children under two, where it is pretty hard to assess, what we’ve been saying for the last few years, is that these children should be treated with antibiotics. For children above the age of two we usually tell parents to treat them with something for the pain, as ear infections are extremely painful, and then to wait 24 hours. Then, if it appears to be getting better by itself then you may be able to avoid the antibiotics that the younger children will be getting.”

If antibiotics are needed, they usually clear up an ear infection within a few days. Still, even once your child is on antibiotics, it’s important to monitor her progress says pediatrician Dr. Mickey Lester. “If the doctor puts the child on antibiotics, the parents should monitor the situation to be sure the symptoms and the fever disappear within a couple of days. If not, they should report to the doctor. They should also return to the doctor after a couple of weeks to be sure that the infection is completely cleared. ”

Ear infections are most common in young children under three because the tube between their ear and throat is immature and not quite developed. Because many young children aren’t yet verbal, parents need to be attuned to the signs of a child with an ear infection says pediatric ear, nose and throat specialist, Dr. Lesley Salkeld. “Young children may be fussy or irritable or may appear to be in a lot of pain that makes sleeping or eating difficult.”

Is an ear infection ever a medical emergency? Most physicians would agree that the older child suffering from an ear infection could usually be treated with acetaminophen to reduce the pain, and then be seen by a physician within 24 hours. But Dr. Salkeld warns, “if a young child has a high fever, I consider it a medical emergency for which a diagnosis and treatment should be immediately commenced.”


Adapted from The Parent Report Radio Show. Any advice or information contained herein should never be a substitute for professional and/or medical advice, diagnosis and treatment. For more information please review Terms of Service.

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