Q: What are some signs my child has an ear infection?
A: Ear infections can make your child pretty uncomfortable, so the most telltale sign for babies and toddlers is more fussiness and crying than usual -- especially toward the end of a cold or other respiratory infection. The following signs also may indicate your child is suffering from an ear infection:
• Pain in the ear: Older children may tell you that their ears hurt; babies and toddlers may tug at their ears and sometimes even bang their heads on the wall or floor.
• Difficulty falling or staying asleep: This is due to the pain from pressure building in the ears. Sometimes active, busy kids will complain more about pain when things quiet down at the end of the day or when it's time for sleep.
• Fever: A sign that her immune system is at work fighting off infection, your child's temperature may range from 99 F. to 104 F., taken rectally.
• Trouble hearing: Fluid buildup in the ear may block sound, but hearing usually returns to normal after the infection clears.
• Decreased appetite: The ear infection itself shouldn't cause problems swallowing, but your child may lose his appetite because he just doesn't feel well.
• Yellow, white, or green drainage from the ear: While not very common, this means that the eardrum has ruptured, or torn, so the fluid blocked behind it can now leak out. This is a definite sign of infection, so call the doctor right away. Although it sounds scary, the ruptured eardrum should heal on its own as the infection gets better. And the good news is that your child may start to feel better as fluid drains and pressure decreases.
While ear infections are uncomfortable, they generally aren't an emergency and usually are not treated with medication right away. But you should let your doctor know as soon as you suspect that your child has symptoms of an ear infection -- especially if there's pus or blood discharge coming from the ear -- because that could indicate a ruptured eardrum. Your doctor will likely suggest you come to her office (especially for babies) so she can examine the ears, checking to see if the eardrum is red, swollen, and stiff, all signs of infection. --Alisa Stoudt
Copyright 2008 Meredith Corporation.