Ever wonder why your kiddo is fussier than normal? Constantly, I know. There seems to be something new every week: illness, food issues, growth spurts, teething. How can we keep it all straight? In particular, you might notice that your child keeps tugging on his ear during a meltdown, or even tells you “ouch” or “hurts” when pointing to an ear. With or without a fever, your mom radar (and my nurse radar!) screams ear infection.
There are three types of ear infections, with the middle ear infection being the common earache we see in our kiddos because of an illness. It is also called otitis media. There is also an outer ear infection, referred to as swimmer’s ear or otitis externa. And then an inner ear infection, which is very rare and needs medical treatment.
They are very common in our littles for a few reasons:
And guess what, Mom and Dad: ear infections in adults can happen too! Not as common for you as it is for your babes, but this info can apply to you as well.
Debating about asking for antibiotics? Current recommendations say to avoid them if possible, so if the symptoms are mild and your Kinsa thermometer is reading less than 102℉, you’re okay to hold back and see how this plays out. Unless your babe is <6 months old – in this case, go ahead and call the doctor to have things checked out sooner than later. Ear infections typically are more common beginning at 6 months old so hopefully you won’t have to deal with this with a newborn.
If your child is still having ear pain and running a fever after 2 days (even with medication), or if the fever rises above 102℉ or you see drainage from the ear, call your doctor.
Let’s break it down into a list to recap, shall we?
Again, these are middle ear infection symptoms we’re discussing. The most common symptoms are:
Technically, no! The ear infection itself is not contagious. That being said, keep in mind that if a virus caused the ear infection, that likely IS contagious.
The duration of an ear infection depends on how severe the infection is. If your doctor prescribes antibiotics, most earaches should feel better by 2 days and resolve in 3 days. The accompanying fever should resolve in 2 days. If you are not sure what you are dealing with and if the ear pain doesn’t feel better after 2 days, call your doctor.
If your doc starts your kiddo on an antibiotic (usually 7-10 days), it’s very important not to miss any doses and continue the full course of antibiotics so the ear infection doesn’t return. While the antibiotics begin kicking in (the initial 2-3 days), your child may still need some medication to help with pain. If your child has been on antibiotics for 3 days but they are still having ear pain and/or fevers, call your doctor back. Some kids will have recurrent ear infections and the discussion of ear tubes might come up to allow better fluid drainage. This is typically discussed after 4 months of fluid in the ears and multiple rounds of antibiotics, so don’t worry about this too soon in the game. One ear infection at a time!
High five for battling another curveball – you’re crushing this parenting thing.
Blake Wageman, RN, BSN has over 14 years of nursing under her belt, primarily focused on NICU babies and, just as importantly, their worried parents.