What to do when your child has ear infections too often

Tired of hearing that your little one has another ear infection? Follow this advice.

23 April 2014
by Dr Iqbal Karbanee

Young children are vulnerable to a number of infections, particularly those involving the ear. The reasons for this susceptibility are many and varied, but the end result is that parents often battle with a child who keeps getting infections of the middle ear.

If the ear drums are infected, and especially if there is fluid in the middle ear, the ear drum cannot vibrate normally and hearing is affected. This in turn can lead to problems in language and speech development. It is therefore vital that ear infections are treated appropriately. All children who have suffered repeated ear infections should have their hearing checked.

How does a middle-ear infection develop?

Most ear infections start out as simple upper respiratory tract infections with cold and flu symptoms. At this early stage, symptomatic treatment may help prevent the build-up of mucus in the sinuses and back of the throat. It is this mucus and with it the spread of infection that gets into the middle ear. This happens because there is a connection called the Eustachian tube that runs between the back of the throat and the middle ear. Infections pass along this tube into the middle ear.

How are infections treated?

Repeated infections should firstly be diagnosed correctly and then treated with the correct antibiotic for long enough to clear the infection. For middle-ear infections this may require up to 10 days of antibiotics. Whenever a child is treated with antibiotics for a middle-ear infection, a follow-up visit must be done with the doctor to ensure the infection has indeed cleared. A build up of fluid in the middle ear can cause lots of pain and discomfort for the child. If the fluid does not clear with medication, then it has to be physically removed.

What are grommets?

In the case of repeated ear infections, grommets may need to be inserted. This is done under anaesthetic. A grommet is essentially a plastic or metal tube a few millimetres long that is placed into the eardrum. This allows fluid that accumulates in the middle ear to drain through the grommet into the ear canal and then out of the ear. By allowing this to happen, potential damage to the eardrum and therefore hearing is prevented, and painful pressure does not build up.

Grommets increase the risk of ear infection developing from the other direction, from the outer ear into the middle ear. For this reason you must take extra care of your child’s ears when grommets are in place and speak to your ENT specialist for advice, as well as the possible use of ear drops if a discharge develops from the child’s ears.

How Clicks Pharmacies and Clinics can help you

Prescribed medications are available at the dispensary at all Clicks pharmacies. Take your script directly to the pharmacist on duty for assistance. If your child has a cold or allergy-like symptoms, ask a Clicks pharmacist for a suitable over-the-counter remedy to relieve the symptoms and help prevent more serious illness.

More information on child health issues is available on the website www.paediq.com. Simply use your ClubCard number to login.