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Offered by: Dawn M. Dycus, M.D. – Brighton Pediatrics, P.C.

Cold and flu season also marks a rise in kids with ear infections. Ear infections are the result of unhealthy bacterial growth behind the ear drum. When this occurs, the area behind the ear drum becomes inflamed and filled with pus, causing the ear drum to turn red and bulge outward.

Bacteria can infect the area behind the ear drum whenever there is fluid buildup. This fluid usually builds up behind the ear drum over the course of several days whenever a child has a viral illness, such as RSV, flu, or a cold. Instead of an illness, sometimes the eustachian tube connecting the ears and nose doesn’t function well, gets plugged, and then becomes the source of the fluid buildup.

Symptoms of an ear infection include increased crying (especially while laying down), trouble sleeping or frequent wakings at night, fevers, and fluid/discharge coming out of the ears. Many parents also notice when their child starts tugging, poking, or grabbing at the ears. Sometimes messing with the ears is truly an ear infection, and other times might be related to teething, exploration, or a self-soothing behavior. This can make it hard to detect an ear infection and is an important reason why your child’s doctor needs to look at the ear drum before prescribing antibiotics.

Recent studies show that many ear infections can resolve on their own without needing antibiotics. Your child’s doctor might discuss with you a “watch and wait” approach instead of jumping straight to starting an antibiotic. In cases of more severe infections, an antibiotic may be necessary and will be prescribed by your child’s doctor. In either case, your child’s symptoms should improve within 36-48 hours. If your child is not improving in this timeframe, it is recommended to follow up for further evaluation.

Additional advice regarding ear infections and other illnesses can be found on our website at www.brightonpeds.com.

Brighton Pediatrics