Painful ear infections are very common in young children. Most ear infections either resolve on their own or are effectively treated by antibiotics. But sometimes, ear infections or fluid in the middle ear may become a chronic problem leading to other issues, such as hearing loss, poor school performance or behavior and speech problems.
Why Ear Infections Are So Common in Kids
Children are at a greater risk of chronic ear infections than adults due to several reasons.
- Children’s Eustachian tubes, which connect the upper throat to the middle ear, are shorter, narrower, floppier and more horizontal than adults’ tubes. These characteristics make it harder for fluid to drain out of the ear and can create a blockage.
- Children’s immune systems are still developing, making it more difficult for them to fight infections.
In addition, some children are more susceptible to ear infections than others. Boys, kids with enlarged adenoids due to allergies and children with a family history of ear infections are at a greater risk.Environmental factors, such as exposure to secondhand smoke or using a pacifier, can also play a role.1
When to Visit an ENT Physician
The good news? Most children grow out of ear infections as they grow up—many kids stop getting ear infections by age eight.
However, that doesn’t mean your child has to suffer from chronic ear pain throughout early childhood. If your child experiences more than three ear infections in six months, they may benefit from ear tubes. Ear tubes are an effective treatment for frequent ear infections; they reduce inflammation (otitis media) and fluid buildup (effusion) in the ear. If your child gets an infection while their ear tubes are in place, your physician can treat it with antibiotic eardrops rather than oral antibiotics. Antibiotic eardrops are much easier on your child than oral antibiotics, which can cause an upset stomach and have other side effects.
Our ENT providers can help you decide if ear tubes are the right solution for your child. Call us at (503) 581-1567 to learn more or schedule an appointment.
1 Schilder, A., Chonmaitree, T., Cripps, A., Rosenfeld, R., Casselbrant, M., Haggard, M., & Venekamp, R. (2016, September 8). Otitis media. Nature Reviews Disease Primers. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7097351/#CR32
“I have been going to Willamette ENT on and off for most of my life. The staff is always so friendly, and the doctors and nurses show a lot of care and compassion!”