Little ones who have allergies tend to have more ear infections than children without allergies.
Nasal inflammation and congestion spreads easily to the middle ear, causing fluid to accumulate behind the eardrum and become infected. Known as otitis media, an infection in the inner ear is a painful condition that can also clog the ears, making it difficult to hear sounds clearly. When ear infections become chronic, they can lead to subtle hearing loss and language development problems that affect the rest of a child’s life.
What are symptoms of ear infections?
The younger the child, the more difficult it is to determine whether he or she truly has an ear infection. Children under age two aren’t able to use words to say their ears are hurting, so instead they may tug on their ears, shake their head, cry excessively or act irritable. Since ear infections can cause intermittent hearing loss, children with an infection may not respond to your voice. In more severe cases, children may appear off balance or you may notice redness around their outer ears or fluid or blood on their pillows.
What should you do if you suspect your child has an ear infection?
At the first sign of an ear infection, take your child to a pediatrician who will look for redness or swelling in the ear and prescribe treatment if necessary. Many times the inflammation will go away on its own; only a few cases require antibiotics. In the case of chronic ear infections, an otolaryngologist (a physician trained in diseases and disorders of the ear, nose and throat) can recommend further medical action, like inserting tubes in the ears, if needed.
What can you do to prevent ear infections?
It’s important to look for the underlying cause — often environmental or food allergies. If a child is congested for long periods of time or has three or more ear infections per year, it’s time to see a board-certified allergist.