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Ear infection in children:The signs and how to deal

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earEkanem Ekure is an Associate Professor, Department of Paediatrics, College of Medicine, University of Lagos and Honorary Consultant, Lagos University Teaching Hospital. She spoke with GERALDINE AKUTU on ear infection in children and how parents can deal with it.

What makes children prone to ear infection?
There are a few factors, which make children more susceptible to ear infections. Younger children, particularly those between the ages of six months and two years are more susceptible because of two reasons: The shape and size of their E–Coughustachian tube and their immunity systems, which are not fully developed. Children that attend Day care or nursery groups are more prone because they are more exposed to infections than children cared for at home.

Seasonal factors also play a role, as ear infections tend to occur more frequently during the cold seasons. It has also been shown that feeding methods play a role. Children, who are bottle fed, especially when lying down, have an increased risk of developing ear infections.

Is it true that children have ear infection more than adults?
Yes. Children have a higher risk of developing ear infections than adults. The reasons are because children have shorter Eustachian tube, making it less likely for fluid to drain out of the ear during an episode of respiratory tract infection, thereby providing a suitable milieu for the development of infection. Secondly, children’s less developed immune system makes them more susceptible to infections.

What are the symptoms of ear infection?
These include ear pain, fever, headache, fluid draining from the affected ear and hearing loss. Younger children, who are not yet able to speak, may pull at their ears or be irritable.

Are there risks to ear infections?
Most ear infections will resolve, if properly treated. However, complications, such as hearing loss, may occur, if not well treated. If hearing is impaired, it may lead to other developmental delays, including speech delay. The infection caused by a bacteria or virus may also spread to other parts of the body, especially those surrounding the ear, including the mastoid bone, meninges or brain, leading to serious infections.

When should a parent seek medical attention?
A parent should seek medical attention, if the child has the above-mentioned symptoms of an ear infection. This will enable the doctor make a diagnosis early and treat appropriately, which will in turn prevent the development of complications.

Can a parent give First Aid treatment at home?
Children with ear infections may have an accompanying fever. So, a parent can give analgesics to relieve pain and fever before seeing a doctor.

What are the best treatment options available?
Treatment of ear infections depends on the cause. Some ear infections may resolve without the use of antibiotics, whereas some ear infections require antibiotics. Other medications that can be given include medication for pain. A doctor should see a child with an ear infection.


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Ekanem Ekure

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