Children often tug on their ears when they’re sleepy, but ear tugging and irritability also can be a sign of an infection. Advertising Policy Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy “Ear infections, also know as … Read More
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“Ear infections, also know as otitis media, are a common ailment for children from 6 months to 3 years old,” says Brandon Hopkins, MD, a pediatric otolaryngologist and head and neck surgeon who practices at Cleveland Clinic’s Willoughby Hills Family Health Center.
Types of ear infections
Ear infections can be caused by either a virus or bacteria. They often begin when a child is sick, but some infections don’t accompany an illness.
Acute ear infections: Single, short painful infections where the fluid behind the eardrum isn’t draining properly. These sometimes cause a brief hearing loss.
Chronic ear infections: Fluid, swelling or an infection behind the eardrum that does not go away or keeps coming back — as many as three times in a six-month period. These can cause long-term or permanent damage to the ear.
Here are Dr. Hopkins’ answers to common questions that parents have about ear infections and ear tubes:
What are signs that my child may have an ear infection?
Pulling or tugging the ears
Ear drainage — milky white or yellowish white with a foul odor
Cranky or irritable mood
Fever greater than 100 degrees
Upper respiratory infection
How are ear infections treated?
Antibiotics aren’t always called for and should be left to your doctor’s discretion. Another approach to curing ear infections may be necessary.
“If it seems like your child has an ear infection every time you turn around and it’s become a quality-of-life concern, it may be time to consider another option,” Dr. Hopkins says. “Ear tubes allow the ear to drain, which helps to decrease pain and the risk of future infections.”
When is it time to consider ear tubes?
It may be time to consider ear tubes if your child has had: