Not every child with an earache has an actual ear infection. Pain in the ears can be caused by all sorts of things, including teething. It should also be noted that many ear infections are caused by viruses as opposed to bacteria (such as the kind responsible for colds) rendering antibiotics useless (and with them, making a trip to the doctor’s office rather pointless).
How to tell if your child has an ear infection
Here are some indications that it’s actually an ear infection as opposed to something else:
- Abrupt ear pain (as opposed to a steadily building ache over several days).
- A child also has a temperature, indicating their body is fighting off an infection.
- Signs of inflammation, like a red, bulging eardrum.
- Symptoms of fluid in the middle ear, such as a child hearing sloshing or feeling as though it’s wet inside their ear.
If a child exhibits these symptoms, see our ear infection treatment page and consider consulting your pediatrician.
Long-term Effects of Chronic Ear Infections in Children
For the most part, chronic ear infections are more a nuisance than a health risk. However, there are some long-term problems that could potentially result from chronic ear infections:
A) They can affect how a child hears–both the things in their environment and how they hear their own voice. Therefore problems in hearing can lead to developmental speech delays, particularly when a child gets chronic infections during the critical windows of speech development, which occur between one and 3 years of age.
B) If a child endures chronic ear infections, repeated exposure to antibiotics can potentially leave them more vulnerable towards similar infections.
C) Antibiotic use for ear infections in kids under five-years-old has been linked to a disruption in healthy gut bacteria in their digestive track, potentially causing permanent harm to important gut microorganisms. (Lukits, 4-2-2013)
D) Ear infections can sometimes lead to taste impairment, putting children at increased risk for becoming obese later on. One study found that those with moderate to severe middle ear infections were 62% more likely to become obese. (Wenner, 2008)