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Identifying Ear Infections in Children

What’s the most common childhood illness besides a cold? If you guessed ear infection, you’re right! Ear infections occur most often in children between the age of three months and three years. They remain common until age eight, so much so that a quarter of children have repeated ear infections.

Even though ear infections are common, they can leave lasting effects on children if not properly cared for. For example, if an ear infection is diagnosed too late or if it is chronic, it may delay speech and language development or cause deafness. That’s why it is important that nurses and parents understand the symptoms of ear infections and act quickly in getting them checked out.

Ear Infection Symptoms

According to the National Institutes of Health, most ear infections happen to children before they’ve learned how to talk. That makes it especially tricky to know if a child might have an ear infection. Here are a few signs to look for:

  • Tugging or pulling at the ear(s)
  • Fussiness and crying
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Fever (especially in infants and younger children)
  • Fluid draining from the ear
  • Clumsiness or problems with balance
  • Trouble hearing or responding to quiet sounds

Prevention Tips

As a school nurse, you may have students that frequently have ear infections. Here are a few prevention tips you can share with their parents:

  • Ear infections usually occur after a child has a sore throat or cold. The bacteria from their sickness can spread to the middle ear, causing an infection. In that case, reduce the chance of children getting sick by washing hands frequently.
  • Avoid putting foreign objects, like cotton swabs and bobby pins, inside the ear. They can cause cuts and bruises in the ear canal that can get infected.
  • Avoid exposing children to smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • Ear infections can sometimes run in the family. While family history is not preventable, it’s good to recognize if this is something your family might have to deal with frequently.
  • If ear infections persist, see your doctor about the possibility of ventilation tubes.

At MacGill, we are dedicated to providing nurses with a wide selection of otoscopes, tympanometers and otoacoustic emission screeners. Click here to shop.

If you have any questions regarding these products or screening requirements in your state, please contact us.

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