The 411 On Ear Infections

When should you call the doctor?
A 3- or 4-year-old is able to communicate that his ear hurts or feels funny and plugged up. But how can a parent ID a possible ear infection in a 1- or 2-yearold? What are the signs and symptoms? “Older toddlers can usually articulate discomfort,” says Nancy Young, MD, a pediatric otologist at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago. “With younger children, it usually comes out in their behavior.” Here’s what to look for:

» Crying more than usual

» Irritability

» Fluid coming out of the ear

» Unresponsive to quiet sounds or other signs of hearing problems like turning up the TV volume or inattentiveness

» Difficulty sleeping (because lying down can cause uncomfortable pres sure changes in the ear)

» Fever, nausea or vomiting » Lack of appetite

» Pain (caused by fluid buildup pushing on the eardrum)

» Ear tugging (though this is a lot less common than you may think) Ear infections are often associated with upper respiratory symptoms such as a cough or a runny-stuffy nose. Many times, however, your child won’t have any nasal-related signs.

He may simply tell you that he hears “popping” sounds and appear to be normal otherwise. If your child exhibits any of the symptoms we’ve outlined here, be sure to call your pediatrician, who will determine whether you need to bring your child into the office. Although uncommon, complications can result if an ear infection is not caught and treated.