Earaches, formally called otitis, are the most common reason that children see their doctor. Otitis involves infection or inflammation of the internal or external ear.
Common symptoms include earache, itching or discomfort in the ear canal, drainage, ear noise or buzzing. For small children look for unusual irritability, inability to sleep, pulling on one or bother ears, fever or fluid coming out of the ear.
"The problem often begins when infections that cause sore throats, colds, or other respiratory problems spread from the nose or the throat up the eustachian tube. Children are more prone to earaches because their Eustachian tubes are shorter and smaller than adults and are not yet vertical," said Ben Gasirowski, Medical Director for St. Luke's Urgent Care. "The tube, which is designed to drain fluids from the middle ear, then gets blocked and the infection causes the middle ear to fill with fluid and get inflamed."
Treatment usually includes antibiotics or other antimicrobials, depending on the suspected cause of the infection. Most ear infections respond to antibiotics, however if there is no improvement after three days, the medication may need to be altered.
The best way to prevent otitis is to avoid the infection that starts it. Teaching children proper respiratory etiquette such as sneezing and coughing into tissues and then throwing the tissues away can help. In addition, proper hand hygiene helps avoid germs that cause infection.
"Minor illnesses like this are never convenient. The best way to protect yourself is to prepare. Know where you can go if you or your child needs immediate medical attention-especially after normal business hours or on the weekend. Do not self diagnose and hope it gets better with time. Have a physician evaluate the condition to receive an accurate diagnosis and appropriate medication," said Dr. Gasirowski.
St. Luke's Urgent Care Centers are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week with no appointments necessary for those times when you can't wait to feel better.