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What Causes an Ear Infection?  Ear infections occur when fluid becomes 

trapped in the middle ear and then becomes infected by bacteria or a virus. 

The middle ear is an air-filled space behind the eardrum. Fluid gets trapped 

when the Eustachian tube, a narrow passageway that connects to the throat,  

becomes blocked. Typically, the blockage is caused by swelling or congestion 

from a cold or other respiratory issue; which is why an ear infection often 

develops shortly after or during a cold. Allergies can also cause inflammation.  

If your child suffers from allergy symptoms, he or she could develop an ear 

infection. Ear infections are not contagious. However, the cold virus that lead  

to an ear infection is contagious. 

Why Are Children Prone to Ear Infections?  Some children are more prone 

to ear infections than others. This depends on a myriad of factors including 

length and angle of the Eustachian tubes, diet, allergies, etc. Children are more 

likely to get ear infections versus adults because their tubes are less developed, 

and, therefore, more likely to become blocked, trapping fluid in the middle 

ear. Additionally, a child’s immune system is still developing, so he or she has a 

tougher time than an adult in fighting off viruses and bacteria.

How Can Parents Identify an Ear Infection?  Older children can tell you if 

they have ear pain (although, not all ear infections cause pain). Identifying an 

ear infection in infants and toddlers is tough because they lack communication 

skills. Small children express discomfort by tugging on their ear, not respond 

to sounds normally, or cry excessively when lying flat. Other indicators can 

include fever, difficulty sleeping, diminished appetite, vomiting, or diarrhea. 

What Should You Do?  Antibiotics are most often prescribed, but aren’t always 

necessary. Some parents will wait and watch, but it is highly recommended you 

take your child to the doctor. 

Your child should be evalu-

ated if fluid is seen draining 

from the ear, as this can 

indicate a perforated or burst 

eardrum, a condition that results from too much pressure from the fluid in  

the middle ear. Although a burst eardrum may sound scary, and can be very 

painful, they are not serious and will usually heal itself. If you can’t see your 

usual Pediatrician, a Pediatric Urgent Care is a good second choice.

To lessen your child’s discomfort, a pediatrician may recommend Ibuprofen  

or acetaminophen. Avoid over-the-counter eardrops, however, unless doctor 

recommended, as they can cause permanent damage if the eardrum is perforated. 

Also, flying on a plane with an ear infection can significantly increase pain or 

even rupture the eardrum due to changes in pressure.

Are Ear Infections Preventable?  There are no guarantees, but precautions 

can be taken. During the cold and flu season, avoid play areas and other places 

potentially crowded with children. Breast feed your infant as this helps to  

develop the child’s immune system. Have your child vaccinated. If your child 

suffers from seasonal allergies, see your doctor about preventive measures to 

decrease congestion.

Ear Infections in Kids

by Dr. Thomas Spurgat, MD, MBA

Dr. Thomas Spurgat, MD, MBA, is the founder and 

CEO of Little Spurs Pediatric Urgent Care, PLLC, in 

Pearland, and several other locations  in the state of 

Texas. For more information about Urgent Care call 

713-496-1331 or visit www.LittleSpursPedi.com.

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