If you’ve had kids, you know the drill: They run a fever, maybe have a runny nose, and start pulling at their ears. It’s time for a trip to the doctor’s office to get some antibiotics to fight yet another ear infection.
Ear infections are practically a rite of passage for kids. But think about it. When was the last time you heard of an adult getting an ear infection?
It has probably been a while. Here’s the simple answer for why kids are more likely to get ear infections than adults: kids’ bodies are still developing, so they aren’t as ready or able to fight off infections as adults are. Here are a few details behind that answer.
Ear infections occur when bacteria gather in the middle ear, or the space right behind the eardrum. The bacteria may enter the body because of a cold, sore throat, or an upper respiratory infection. Once the infection settles in the middle ear, fluid starts building up behind the eardrum.
Eustachian tubes are small passageways between the middle ear and the upper part of the throat. Part of their job is to drain fluid that builds up, but in kids, the eustachian tubes are smaller and more level than in adults. This position makes it more difficult for fluid to drain out of the ear. If the tubes are swollen or blocked with mucus because of a cold, it makes it even harder for the fluid to drain.
Kids’ immune systems are not as developed as adults’ either, so adults do a better job of fighting off infections than kids.
Once your doctor diagnoses an ear infection, they may take a wait-and-see approach since many infections clear up on their own in a few days. If medication is necessary, your doctor can usually treat it with antibiotics that will knock out the infection fairly quickly.
If your child continues to get ear infections over and over, your doctor may recommend putting tubes in their ears to allow better drainage so that fluids from infections cannot keep building up in the middle ear.
One of the best ways to treat ear infections is to keep from getting them in the first place. To give your kids the best chances of avoiding ear infections, make sure they receive all their recommended vaccinations. You should also make sure they wash their hands frequently, and keep them from spending time with other sick kids. Babies who are around cigarette smokers have also been shown to have a higher rate of ear infections, so keep your environment smoke-free.
Although it’s hard to keep kids from ever getting an ear infection, it isn’t hard to set up an appointment with Dr. Smita Tandon, a pediatrician in Fountain Valley, California. Call or book an appointment online today to find out more about prevention and treatment of ear infections.