TMI Tuesdays: Earaches Re-Run

So, last TMI tuesday I had the hope of an earache entry.  And excitingly enough I had one that I already ran, here it is — I will put a few more of my more-recent thoughts at the bottom:

Earache entry originally published on 11/10/09

Is it an ear infection?  Here are some handy tips to decide if you should head to the doctor or not.

Ahhh, the one thing that brings me into the doctor with my kids (besides well-checks) the ear-ache.

Actually, only one of my kids has ever had an ear infection — Conner, and his lasted well into 3 months courtesy of mis-shapen ear tubes, most likely. He had tubes placed when he was 1 and he had a couple of infections after that and then we had to have them manually pulled when he was 4 (they never fell-out).

Signs of ear infections

  • For babies it tends to be crying while they’re eating their bottle (they’ll suck for a minute, and then the pressure changes in their ears so it’s painful, esp. if they’re more flat)
  • Crying after you lay them down (like they’re hurting, not just like they’re tired)
  • Pulling at their ears (my kids do this all the time anyway, so that doesn’t help)
  • Runny nose, boogery eyes.
  • In older children it’s obviously them saying their ears hurt.
 Ears tend to hurt a lot at bedtime, as the temperature is getting colder and as that changes the pressure on their ear drum hurts as well. My ears often will hurt after dinner when I have a cold, and then they’ll go away. You can always lay on a hot pad and that will help stabilize the temperature changes.  Also, gland pain can kind of push up into your jaw and kids may SAY it’s ear pain just because that’s the closest thing.

If it’s more than just at bedtime I usually take them into the doctor. Back in “my day” they used to give antibiotics for any ear infection, but they are finding that more and more are viruses and they want to wait it out and see if it gets worse or gets better.

For me, the need for antibiotics would depend on a few factors:

1. How painful it is, if they aren’t willing to give antibiotics, can you get a drop for pain in the ear? If the child’s screaming in pain I would most likely just start an antibiotic.  If you really want an antibiotic, let your doctor know… but be prepared to hear him/her out… antibiotics are not a cure all.

2. Have they had them often before? If it’s kink in the ear tube, it’s likely that fluid builds-up and gets gross in there. Discuss the history with your doctor (or remind them of it).
3. Your doctor’s willingness to give you the prescription and let you make the call. A lot of times they’ll give an RX so you can fill it if you feel like it’s necessary. Maybe also get some pain drops as well. I appreciate it when my doctor allows me to “make the call”.
I would like to make a plug here for how important it is to NOT over-use antibiotics. There are super bugs out there, and the time for child to build-up an immune system and immunity is while they’re young. If you keep them in a bacteria-free environment it’s going to be difficult for them to do that. Treat symptoms, give love — but re-think yourself when you’re wanting antibiotics.
BUT, in some cases they’re totally necessary, and ears can definitely be one of them. I think most doctors are willing to talk this out with you. I think that many parents go in insisting that he provide them with a prescription for relief, when that may only come from kleenex and love. Just let him know you want a well-thought out decision, and that you’re fine to wait a bit and see.
*** Thoughts for today:
P has had a couple of ear infections.  My doctor actually said that she always gives antibiotics if they’re under 2.  This seems like a smart rule of thumb.  Those ear canals are small things when they’re tiny.  Also, recently it was right before Christmas and P had been sick for a while and she did let me make the call.  She told me to go get the antibiotics and have them in case it got worse over Christmas.  Turns out, she did and I used them.  I love my pediatrician. :)
I do think if your child is over 2 that ear pain comes and goes.  I would increase their fluid intake and maybe give them a warm pad to lay their head on.  And, of course I’d give them some pain reliever, because I’m like that.  If the ear pain is incessant and they are crying because of the pain I might take them in, just so the doctor can assess what’s best to do.
Also, P has had a burst eardrum once.  So, just a reminder that if blood is coming from the ear canal and there is no sign of obvious injury (aka, if they’re just bleeding because they accidentally stuck something in their ear) then take them to the doctor.
NEW Pro QUALITY 3.2V HALOGEN OTOSCOPE SET includes DISPOSABLE SPECULA ADAPTOR and 3 sizes of reuseable specula plus Zippered Leatherette Case!As far as assessing them on your own at home you can get an otoscope and check a lot of normal ears, that way when one is infected you’ll have a better idea.  Sadly P turns into a deamon of speed and will when people are probing any of her bodily openings.  I thought for SURE she had one about a month ago, only to go in and the doctor said no.  I am officially a bad ear-looker.  I’m just happy that soon she’ll be able to verbalize stuff… at least I hope.

If you want to do it yourself, you can look here for my favorite otoscope.

Hilary is an RN, BSN who has worked in various medical fields for the past 14 years, however, none of the information on this blog, should be substituted for the care of a physician. The information provided on this blog is informational only and shouldn’t be taken as medical advice. You have instinct, use it — and use it wisely. If you have questions, please ask your doctor. If you think you have a medical or psychiatric emergency, please call 911. Also, please don’t delay contacting a physician due to something you have read on here. Pulling Curls doesn’t take responsibility for your health. That’s your job. We’re just a nice read. 
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  1. says

    I would add something to your comments on anti-biotics that I’ve learned the hard way. The most common antibiotic given for ear infections in kids is amoxicillin. My oldest had a LOT of earaches before 2 1/2. Now research, and her poor teeth, have shown that amoxicillin can affect the proper development of their molars. It causes “hypoplasticity” which means the enamel isn’t strong. It flakes off, and cavities are almost guaranteed. I would just suggest asking for another antibiotic at least some of the time, so they aren’t taking that one a lot.


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