February is Kids ENT Health Awareness Month!

As such, we want to spend this month’s blog talking about pediatric ENT health issues.

While there are so many pediatric ENT issues that we could cover here, we thought we would cover one that is quite common since we know it likely impacts a lot of your children out there:

Ear Infections, also known as “Otitis.”

Ear infections are the most common reason we see children coming in to see their doctor. By the age of three, most children usually have had at least one ear infection, and 30% of children have had three or more episodes. If ear infections start before the age of 6 months, your child may be “otitis prone” and will experience more than the usual number of infections in the first three years of their life. If this is the case, you should definitely bring your child into the doctor regularly to keep an eye on this, and implement treatment as recommended by your pediatric ENT.

What is “Otitis”?

The word “otitis” refers to infection of the ear. There are two kinds of otitis: Otitis externa—this refers to an outer ear infection, and otitis media—this refers to a middle or “inner” ear infection.

What is Otitis Media?

“Otitis media” is more commonly known as a middle ear infection (an infection in the space behind the ear drum). This is the most common type of ear infections for children—more than 90% of all children will have at least one infection of this type by the age of two.

There are two common forms of middle ear infection (and you’ll need to consult your ENT to find out which one may be happening for your child): “acute” infections and  “chronic” infections. Persistent fluid behind the eardrum is known as “otitis media with effusion.”

What is Otitis Externa or “Swimmer’s Ear”?

“Otitis externa” is an infection of the outer ear canal. This infection is also more commonly known as “swimmer’s ear” as this infection tends to come with exposure to water. Extended immersion in water can make the skin more vulnerable to infection by bacteria, yeast, and fungi. The symptoms of swimmer’s ear include redness and swelling of the ear canal, significant pain in the ear canal, and in some cases there may be drainage. Please visit your ENT doctor for a treatment plan.

How do I know if my child has an ear infection?

As such, common symptoms can include pulling on the ears, increased irritability, changes in behavior, frequent wakings during the night, fever, a decrease in appetite, resistance to lying flat and sometimes even a loss of balance. Ear infections can be very painful for some children, while others experience little to no discomfort. For children who don’t experience much pain with ear infections, their infection may only be noticed during an otherwise routine doctor visit or a sick visit for a different complaint.  

When should I go see the doctor?

If your child is displaying signs and symptoms of an ear infection, take them in to see your Pediatric ENT doctor right away. It’s important to watch your child closely until the ear infection resolves completely, and your doctor says it is okay to resume normal activity.

We see this problem again and again in our offices—and we know it isn’t fun. Some children get ear infections all the time, while others it is only an infrequent occurrence, but, either way we want to make sure that parents understand this issue as well as knowing the different types of ear infections that can occur.

Happy Kids ENT Health Awareness Month, from OHC!