Why Children Are More Prone to Ear Infections — Especially in Summer

Another ear infection? It’s probably not your imagination if it seems like your child just got over a previous infection. Children are far more susceptible to ear infections than adults. Five out of every six children have at least one ear infection before they turn 3 years old.

Summer is particularly busy for ear infections because water play adds a second type of earache onto the scene. If your child is tugging at their ears or complaining of pain, it’s time to see the ear infection specialists at Lawrence Otolaryngology Associates to clear up this round of infection.

A child’s developing body

A primary cause of ear infections in children has to do with their physical immaturity. Middle ear infections, clinically called otitis media, result from the inability of the middle ear to drain properly. 

The eustachian tubes perform this drainage function, leading from the middle ear to the back of the throat. They also serve as air pressure regulators between the ears and the outside world.

A child’s smaller body also means the tubes have a smaller diameter. Not only that, the eustachian tubes are much closer to horizontal in your child’s body. They miss out on the gravity assist that adults enjoy, since these tubes slope down toward the mouth as the body matures.

Bacteria and blocked tubes

Inefficient drainage creates a haven for bacterial growth. When microbes take hold in the middle ear, the warm and moist environment creates ideal conditions for them to reproduce and grow. Unfortunately, it also means pain and unpleasantness for your child.

Fluid builds up behind the eardrum, causing pressure and pain. Since the bones of the middle ear are normally surrounded by air, your child’s hearing is usually affected during the course of the infection. 

Sometimes, bacteria can get trapped by the adenoids, at the other end of the eustachian tubes, creating a chronic cycle of infection that may be hard to break. If your physician recommends placing tubes in your child’s ears, it’s usually to provide an alternate way for the middle ear to drain.

Swimmer’s ear

When the warm weather hits, children and water form a natural match. Adding to the problems your child could face is otitis externa, an outer ear infection commonly known as swimmer’s ear. When the outer ear stays constantly moist, it may be susceptible to skin irritation and infection.

Even if your child avoids water, swimmer’s ear is possible. Aggressive cleaning or scratching of the ear can cause breaks in the skin, giving bacteria a way to gain access. Making matters worse, it’s possible to have middle and outer infections simultaneously.

Swimmer’s ear is often easier to detect, since the outer ear could be red, with noticeable swelling of the lymph nodes near the ear. Pressing or pulling on the ear increases the pain, and it may be painful to chew. Fluid may also leak from the ear, ranging from clear to pus-like.

Contact Lawrence Otolaryngology Associates at the first sign of ear infection pain. Prompt treatment can keep your child happy and on the go. Call the office closest to you, in Lawrence or Ottawa, to schedule an appointment today. You can also send a message to the team here on the website.

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