Education,  Registered Nurse

Pediatric Ear Infections (or, A Legitimate Reason Your Child is not Listening to You)


Ok, so maybe that isn’t totally true. My title would imply that hearing loss is an innate aspect of Ostitis Media (aka ye olde ear infection). The truth is that hearing loss is far more of a concern with chronic ear infections, than acute. Ear infections are super common among young children and, for the most part, are not something to lose sleep over. Make sure that you instruct parents and guardians to follow up with their pediatrician to obtain all necessary orders. Here are some tips and tricks for assessing and caring for a pediatric client with ostitis media.

So, what’s up?

Ostitis media is an inflammation of the middle ear. This can happen as a result of dysfunction of the eustachian tube, (i.e. infection, swelling). Kids who come from homes where a family member smokes are at an increased risk of ear infection secondary to a respiratory infection. Children who are bottle fed are also at a slightly higher risk if there is reflux of milk, or milk drips into the ear during feeds. It’s important that we nurses teach parents preventative measures to reduce the risk of ear infection.

What I am looking for? Symptoms of Ear Infection

Some times there are no obvious signs of ear infection. But some symptoms include

  • Pain – very young kids will likely be difficult to settle and may try to grab his/her ear. They could also have a slight fever. *It should be noted that sometimes children complain of ear pain when they are getting their molars as ear pain can actually be referred pain from the jaw or mouth. Make sure to do a thorough assessment to determine between the two.
  • Drainage –  purulent (pus) drainage coming out of the ear as a result of a rupture.
  • Decreased appetite
  • Swelling of the cervical and preauricular lymph nodes
  • Scarring to eardrum (known as tympano sclerosis)

So what am I gonna do about it? Assessment and Treatment of an Ear Infection

After you obtain the health information provided by the parent or child, first things first, you gotta look in that ear and see what is going on. If the middle ear is bulging, red and intact, chances are there is an ear infection. You could also send a culture of the drainage for testing to determine which organism is causing the infection, but the vast majority of physicians can diagnose based on sight.

The paediatrician may or may not prescribe antibiotics. There is real concern out there for creating antibiotic resistance, and since the majority of ear infections are mild and won’t cause long term negative effects, physicians may choose to allow it to run its course. However, if the infection is a bit more severe and the swelling of the ear drum is more significant, they will prescribe an antibiotic.

Regardless of antibiotic use, the nursing treatment for an ear infection is basically a lot of education for the parents. Teach parents how to:

  • properly administer any antibiotics or analgesics (if those are required for significant pain)
  • apply a heat back to the ear to reduce discomfort
  • frequent cleaning of the outer ear to avoid any build up from discharge

And that’s it! If all of these steps are followed, your little patient will be on the mend in no time!

Let me know what you think about this new style of post in the comments section or via social media!


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