Ep. 14: Important Middle Ear Infection Information that Parents Need to Know
Today’s episode will be a chat about ear infections and will specifically discuss middle ear infections which most people consider to be THE ear infection.
Additional information can be found on my previous posts about ear infection facts, ways to prevent them, common ear infection myths and their severe complications. You might also want to check out a post by a pediatrician who shares the difficult process of diagnosing ear infections.
But my purpose today is to give a big old overview of these ear infections. Like Middle ear infections 101.
This is such a huge topic; therefore, I am doing a lot of talking with more details in the episode. Listen in and learn!
At the end of this post, I will share my Pro-Tips. If you don’t remember much else, remember these.
Ear infections are extremely common; however, many people do not understand that all ear infections are not the same. Depending on where the infection is located, different symptoms and treatments are needed.
Be sure to always ask your physician what type of infections you have or which part of the ear infected. This will help you as you interact with future physicians because it is difficult for me to understand past treatments when we are not talking about the same type of infection!
First, there are 3 parts of the ear.
- outer ear….aka swimmers ear
- inner ear…near the brain, often with severe dizziness or the most dreaded permanent hearing loss.
- middle ear is …well located between the outer ear (ear canal) and inner ear (next to brain)
Classic ear infection cycle:
- runny nose
- pulling on ears
- Boom, gone.
But…clearly, this is not always the case.
Many things go into determining when a middle ear infection is more severe or needs more aggressive care. Which is why, when you say your friend’s child did XYZ. or when you were a child, ABC happened…none of this deals with the exact situation that is happening with the patient right now.
Useful Middle ear infection information
- Nose symptoms almost always are the cause of the middle ear infection
- Just because nasal mucus is green does not mean there is a bacterial infection (check out my mucus blog post)
- Young kids under age 6 can have 6-8 viral infections a year (common colds are common!)
- From September to April, kids can have viral infections EVERY month!
- Middle ear infections can be recurrent or chronic. They are different.
- Most middle ear infections are viral and many (and I do mean MANY) do not need antibiotics
- The number of antibiotics prescribed does not always tell me the severity of the problem. (Often tells me how often you went to a physician and often requested antibiotics)
- Kids who may be treated more aggressively with fewer infections include
- newborns less than 6 weeks old
- kids who have seizures with fevers
- kids who have several ruptured eardrums
Middle ear infection complications
- Common mild or temporary complications
- Muffled hearing with ear fluid
- Speech and balance issues which readily reverse
- Moderate complications
- Significant speech delay requiring speech therapy
- Sensory issues that may need therapy
- Learning issues
- Severe complications
- Chronic hole in the eardrum which needs surgery
- Scarring on the eardrum or hearing bones that needs surgery
- Skin build up behind the eardrum, (called a cholesteatoma) needing surgery
- Emergency complications, usually during acute infections
- Brain Abscess
- Mastoiditis…trapped infection in the bone behind the ear.
Dr. Burton’s Pro-Tips (the middle ear infection take-home messages you need):
Get a follow-up visit with your pediatrician to make sure the ear fluid is completely gone
If you or your child is diagnosed with an ear infection, always, always ask where! Seriously. Which part of the ear?
NEVER ask your physician to prescribe antibiotics. They will if they think it is needed.
Aggressive treatment of nasal symptoms can reduce middle ear infections and their severity
Acute infections may lead to severe emergency complications
Chronic problems may lead to long-term changes that require more surgery. Ear tubes are the most common childhood surgery and may be recommended when ear infections cannot be resolved. Be sure to check out my podcast about what you should (and should not) expect from ear tubes!
I give mini-speeches about ear infections all day long in my office. It is much easier to do because I can point to my posters on my walls and better connect the dots when I discuss different parts of the ear and the nose and brain relationship.
I might have to add to my list of things to do…make some youtube videos where I can point to areas as I describe what is going on. Hmmm. I am currently struggling to not sound super awkward on these podcasts, so seeing me on video? Gotta mull that over for a bit more.
As always, much love for supporting my work. I will be adding many more posts to highlight parenting and healthcare tips, so be sure to consider subscribing to my podcast or to my blog to avoid missing a post!
An ear infection can be caused by bacteria or a virus. It happens when fluid builds up in the area behind your baby’s eardrum and then becomes infected. … But if a eustachian tube is blocked – as often happens during colds, sinus infections, even allergies – the fluid gets trapped in the middle ear. You can Vaccinate your child against the flu. …
It is recommended that you vaccinate your child with the 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13). …
Wash hands frequently. …
Avoid exposing your baby to cigarette smoke. …
All of the information you shared is correct! I always emphasize the need to treat nasal symptoms to help improve swelling in the eustachian tube.
This post is so helpful. My kid had a lot of middle ear infections. Some of them so bad we had to take him to the hospital. I wish I had your information when he was young. And please share all about it in a youtube video! That would be helpful.
Many of my young patients have lots of ER and urgent care visits because when the ear infections happen, they often cannot wait to be seen. I am still cracking up at the idea of me making youtube videos, but you never know!
This is a great post. My children gave never had ear infections so I wouldn’t know the symptoms but this helps so much!
It seems that every child gets an ear infection but indeed they don’t. There are many parents just like you, and that is a good thing!
This is a great post, my oldest never had a problem with his ears, but my second one tended to be more susceptible to infections.
It is common in families to have one child suffering from ear infections or allergies and the other child does not. But there does tend to be a genetic relationship.
My kids have never had an ear infection, but they have had swimmer’s ear. Both are swimmers and I’ve heard it is more painful, so unfortunately we are familiar with it.
Yes, swimmer’s ear can be awful. If it gets bad enough, drops cannot get into the ear and physicians must insert a piece of cotton into the swollen ear to help medicine get to the infected skin. Both types are very painful.
oh wow! i do not have any kids so this is actually the first time im hearing this! how informative!
If you ever have kids, you will be ahead of the game in understanding how much you need to care for nasal symptoms to avoid some of these ear infections!
Your post was very informative. I do not have children, yet I read till the end. I will be passing along your website to my friends with young children. You give information in a way that is very simple and easy to understand. Thank you for your blog, it is much needed.
That was a fantastic compliment! Thank you so much. I am always happy to hear that I have been able to explain things in an easily understandable way!
There is so much good information here! I have been lucky to not be burdened with many ear infections, but I know people whose children have many!
It is so common in kids that we think all kids will have them, but many never do. And that is a good thing!
Thank you so much for sharing this info in such an easy to understand way. I had an ear infection when I was a little. girl and that was really painful. Thanks God my children never had one.
I have never had one but based on my little patients, it something we each need to be thankful that we do not have them.
Thank you so much for sharing this information. When my kids were little they had quite a few ear infections and they poor kids were miserable. Thankfully, they don’t get them anymore.
The good news is that most kids do outgrow the problem. Glad it your kids got better.
My kids don’t get ear infections very often. We are lucky in that regard. This information was very informative for me whenever my kids do get an ear infection. I have a better idea of why and what to do. Your info about the complications that could take place was also helpful. Sometimes, even with having 5 kids, I don’t always know what to look for if complications arise with ear infections. Again, this was very helpful to me.
Many parents get confused when they should treat problems so I work hard to share tips on treating things at home early before complications arise.
I’m happy you commented about not always asking for antibiotics. I worked in Urgent Care and some parents would get upset if no antibiotics were prescribed even if the infection was viral.
Oh goodness, I am always saying…don’t ask your doctor for antibiotics. I have also started saying…don’t ask your doctor to get an xray! Doctors will order tests or medications when they feel it is time.
This is a very helpful guide. Babies suffering from this kind of infection is really tough. I’ve seen it with my friends’ kiddos.
Unfortunately, this is a very common problem. The good news is that most kids outgrow them.
I am so glad I am over the ear infection phase with my son. This post is super informative to new parents.
It is indeed helpful for parents to understand what kinds of questions to ask and to better understand the information they are given.
Reminds me of being a child. I had middle ear infections like this all the time. It was nearly impossible to deal with them especially as my mother didn’t believe in antibiotics when I was younger.
Antibiotics play a role in ear infections, but many parents work harder on treating nasal symptoms which may be another way to reduce ear infections. Sadly, many adults continue to have ear symptoms so I am glad you are past that.
This is such an important bit of information parents definitely need to know. I am pinning it so more parents can become aware about the ear infection.
I appreciate you sharing this information. Understanding some of the basics may help parents understand when things become more complicated.
Ear infection are so ouchy, not just for kids but for adults as well. We have brought our daughter to the EENT when she had impacted ear war. Too scared for it to reach an infection!
Oh yes. Wax can cause outer ear infections or block physicians from seeing that middle ear infections are present!
Okay. Childrens is great deal actually. Ear infection is very chronic one of my friend has it i cant imagine how much pain it will couse to child.thank you for heads up.
Yes, often after an adults gets an ear infection, they realize how much little kids put up with. They are very painful.
Feeling really ignorant right now. I didnt even know something of this sort even existed! Kudos to you for creating much needed awareness on the issue!
Most kids do not have these problems, but the ones that do, often have them repeatedly.
As a mom of 4, I definitely appreciate all this information and tips for dealing with ear infections. I’d love to see a video! Just pretend the camera is a patient. I’m sure you’ll do fine 🙂
Thanks for your support! I am seriously considering the videos. Time will tell.