What to Do for an Ear Infection in Kids

If your child has an ear infection, you might be wondering if you should visit River’s Edge Hospital & Clinic’s Urgent Care or ER.

What Causes Ear Infections?

An ear infection happens when the middle ear becomes inflamed and are often caused by a virus or bacteria, such as from a cold or upper respiratory infection. According to the National Institutes of Health, the ear is made up of three different parts: the inner ear, the middle ear and the outer ear. The middle ear contains a tube called the eustachian tube that connects the middle ear to the upper throat. This tube’s job is to help drain fluid and maintain air pressure between the nose and the ear.

When someone gets sick from a virus or bacteria, the eustachian tube in the inner ear can swell and cause fluid buildup. Then, the virus or bacteria that caused the initial illness is attracted to the fluid buildup in the ear, where it can grow and produce pus.

Symptoms of Ear Infection in Kids

Children often get more ear infections than adults because their eustachian tube is shorter and narrower than in adults, which makes it easier for it to swell and be found by a virus or bacteria.

The signs and symptoms of an ear infection in kids can include:

  • Difficulty chewing, drinking or sleeping
  • Difficulty hearing
  • Fever
  • Fluid in the ear
  • Pain in the ear
  • Problems with balance or clumsiness

If your child is a baby and can’t communicate that their ear hurts, watch out for more fussiness or crying than usual. They may also pull at their ear.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Ear infections in kids typically go away on their own in about two to three days. However, if you think you need to seek treatment or if your child experiences multiple ear infections, you may want to visit an Urgent Care or ER.

To diagnose your child, the provider will likely need to do a physical exam to look inside the ear at the eardrum. The provider will then decide on a treatment plan based on the cause of your child’s ear infection. If the ear infection isn’t caused by bacteria, don’t be surprised if your child doesn’t receive a prescription for antibiotics. Not all ear infections need to be treated with antibiotics, but you might receive pain-relieving ear drops or other medication.


Ear infections in kids may be preventable with certain vaccinations, such as the annual flu vaccine and the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine. You should also encourage your child to wash their hands often and keep your kid away from other sick kids.

If your child is a baby, don’t put them down to sleep with a bottle and avoid exposing your baby to cigarette smoke.

Does your child have an ear infection? River’s Edge Hospital & Clinic Urgent Care can help.


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