Friday, 19 March 2010

Does your child suffer from ear infection?

Most of you may have come across children screaming with ear ache. The most common cause of ear ache in children is ear infection. The short tube (eustacian tube) in their ear which gets blocked easily makes them susceptible to ear infection. Infection of the middle ear, known as ‘otitis media’ in medical language is very common in children. About 1 in 4 children suffer from ear infection at some time during their first 10 years. There are different types of ear infection. The two most common types are discussed here.

1. The commonest presentation is a child presenting with fever, earache and irritability. This may be preceded by respiratory tract infection such as cold or cough. Younger children may pull their ears. These symptoms are suggestive of ‘acute ear infection (otitis media)’. In severe cases ear drum (tympanic membrane) may perforate and there will be discharge of pus into the ear canal which parents may notice.
Diagnosis is based on these symptoms and when your doctor looks into the child’s ear with an instrument called ‘otoscope’, ear drum may look red and bulging.

Treatment: Most of the time ear infection resolves on its own. Pain can be treated with simple medicines such as paracetamol. Some cases may need antibiotics. If you are prescribed antibiotics please complete full 5 day course. Incomplete course of antibiotics may lead to further complications.

2. Glue ear: This condition is not associated with ear ache. Glue ear is very common in children. Normally children present with reduced hearing capacity. Sometimes the child’s written performance is much better than the oral performance and this comes to the attention of teachers in school indicating the possibility of hearing problem.

Most of the time glue ear resolves on its own. Children who are > 3 years or who have a speech/ language/ developmental problem should be seen by ENT specialists. These children may need adenoidectomy or ‘grommet’ insertion.

School age children with suspicion of hearing problem should have their hearing accurately assessed by what is known as ‘audiometry’.

IMPORTANT: When the child has ear ache DO NOT put oil into the ear.

If you are concerned about your child’s hearing do seek medical opinion. He may be suffering from a treatable condition.

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