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Childhood Ear Infections: Top 5 Risk Factors and Symptoms

Published by , on Apr 23, 2013

playing-doctor_flippedSince a young age Kelley Dodson, MD, of Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, always knew she wanted to become a doctor. “My friend and I used to play doctor all day long,” said Dr. Dodson. “I think I’ve always known this was the career path I was meant to take.”It wasn’t until medical school that she discovered her interest in pediatric ear, nose and throat (ENT) medicine. “I found the anatomy fascinating and I couldn’t think of a better opportunity to improve the quality of life of children.”As a mother of three children, Dr. Dodson knows firsthand how difficult it is when your child isn’t feeling well. Ear infections tend to affect children in particular, and are one of the most frustrating and worrisome illnesses for both parents and children to endure. To help parents prevent ear infections and treat them as soon as possible, Dr. Dodson offers advice on the top five risk factors and symptoms parents should look for in relation to childhood ear infections.Top five childhood ear infection risk factors:

  1. Children are most susceptible to ear infections after battling a cold.
  2. Allergies can cause inflammation in airways, which may contribute to ear infections.
  3. Adenoids filter out bacteria and viruses entering through the nose. Since adenoids trap germs that enter the body, the tissue sometimes swells temporarily as it tries to fight off an infection. Enlarged adenoids can pose an ear infection risk for children.
  4. Enrollment in day care may increase ear infections in children. Although ear infections are not contagious, upper respiratory infections (colds) that precede them are more frequent among children with frequent exposure to other children.
  5. Babies are born with immature immune systems. As a result, babies and younger children tend to have a higher number of infections, including ear infections.

Top five most common ear infection symptoms:

  1. Pain: The most common signs of an ear infection is pain. Older children may tell you their ear hurts while toddlers or babies may show signs of irritability or fussiness. Toddlers and babies may also pull on their ears more often or express discomfort during feeding since swallowing in particular may cause more pain.
  2. Fever: Children may have fevers ranging from 100°F to a high 104°F.
  3. Ear drainage: Consult your pediatrician is you see yellow or white fluid similar to puss draining from your child’s ear.
  4. Poor sleep: Children with ear infections may wake up more frequently during the night due to pain, resulting in less sleep(for the child and the parent!).
  5. Hearing loss: An ear infection causes fluid behind the eardrum to get in the way of sound transmission which may cause your child to have trouble hearing for several weeks.

Preventing Ear Infections:While ear infections are more common in younger children, Dr. Dodson recommends frequent hand washing and avoiding cigarette smoke exposure to help prevent ear infections. Children diagnosed with ear infections may be prescribed certain antibiotics or ear drops as treatment, depending on the infection. If you believe your child may have an ear infection, consult your child’s doctor.Calling All Parents – Free Seminar:1051Parents can learn more about common and complex ENT disorders by attending Dr. Dodson’s free seminar, The ABCs of Pediatric Ear, Nose and Throat, on Tuesday, April 30, 2013 from 6 to 7 p.m. at Gari Melchers Home and Studio at Belmont, 224 Washington Street, Falmouth, Va.

“Understanding these diseases helps parents make the right decisions about medical care for their children,” said Dr. Dodson. “I hope parents walk away from the seminar with a better understanding of ear, nose and throat disease processes affecting children so they feel empowered to actively participate in their child’s future care.”

The seminar is free and open to the public, but registration is recommended. For more information or to register call (804)-828-0123 or email seminars@mcvh-vcu.edu.

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