How Common Are Pediatric Ear Infections?

Ear infections are common in children. In fact, up to 5 in 6 children have at least one ear infection before turning 3. An ear infection, also called otitis media, is inflammation in the middle ear. Often, children get a cold before developing an ear infection. Because children have smaller and narrower Eustachian tubes, pediatric earaches are more common than adult ones. Children don’t always need to see a doctor for an earache. Try these 5 pain relief remedies and know when to see an otolaryngologist.

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1. Warm compresses

One of the most frustrating parts of ear infections is the pain. Children may experience some pain relief from a warm washcloth held over the ear for about 10-15 minutes at a time. The combination of warmth and moisture can feel very soothing.

2. Olive oil

Children may also benefit from a few drops of warm olive oil. Alternatively, parents can try using sesame oil. The oil can help break up ear wax and relieve aching. Olive oil also has some antibacterial properties. Beware, however, that this remedy is not safe if a child’s eardrum has burst or if there is fluid draining from the ear.

3. Garlic and onions

Both garlic and onions can be used as natural infection-fighting agents. To use garlic, cook 2-3 garlic cloves in olive oil. Then, strain the mixture into a small dish. Using a medicine dropper, apply 1-2 drops in the child’s ear. The same strategy can be used for onions. Children may need to lay on the side for a few minutes to let the drop work.

4. Over-the-counter pain relievers

Depending on the child’s age, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be an appropriate treatment. Common options include ibuprofen and acetaminophen. In teenagers, aspirin may also be an option, depending on the advice of a pediatrician or other healthcare provider.

5. Elevation

Resting with the head slightly elevated can encourage ear fluid to drain properly. Older children can sleep with the head elevated on two pillows. Do not place pillows under a baby’s head in a crib. Instead, place a pillow or two underneath the mattress to slightly elevate the top portion of the crib.

When should I go to an ENT?

Many children get earaches or ear infections, and not all need antibiotics. However, if symptoms are worsening or if the infection lasts more than 7-10 days, schedule an appointment with an otolaryngologist. These doctors are ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialists who can provide appropriate treatment options.

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