Ear infections are among the most common reasons that parents take their children to see a doctor. In fact, according to statistics from the National Institutes of Health, five out of six children in the U.S. will have had at least one ear infection by the time they’re three years old. For parents, this translates into unavoidable worry about their child’s well-being. But thanks to DispatchHealth, that stress doesn’t have to include enduring a long delay with a fussy infant or toddler in the busy waiting room of a medical clinic.
If you or your child needs treatment for an ear infection, we’ll come to you. Our highly qualified mobile medical teams have the equipment needed to diagnose and treat an ear infection at your home. This means you can skip the drive to a doctor’s office or emergency room as well as the uncomfortable wait for a short-notice medical consultation. Moreover, our rates are comparable to those of a walk-in urgent care clinic and typically much lower than ER rates. We also accept many health insurance plans.
Exactly what is an ear infection?
As the term implies, an ear infection is a bacterial or viral infection of the ear—usually the middle part located between the eardrum and the inner ear. Ear infections often occur during a cold, a sore throat, or another upper respiratory infection. Adults can develop ear infections, but children are more susceptible because their immune systems are not as well developed. Youngsters also have narrower Eustachian tubes, which are small passageways that connect the middle ear to the upper throat. When these tubes become swollen or clogged with mucus during a respiratory infection, the fluid in the ear is less likely to drain properly. This makes it easier for the fluid to become infected and cause painful symptoms in the ear.
Common ear infection symptoms to watch out for
The most common symptoms of an ear infection include pain, a feeling of pressure inside the ear, and minor hearing loss. Many patients also have a pus-like fluid draining from their ears.
Some additional ear infection symptoms are common among children. They include fever and loss of balance and appetite. In the case of babies and toddlers who can’t articulate their symptoms, parents should suspect an ear infection if their children are:
- Rubbing or pulling at their ear
- Not reacting to sounds as they normally do
- Fussy, crying, and restless
- Unable to sleep
Additionally, if you have a baby that’s 6 months old or younger and has a fever of 102 degrees or higher, you should consult with a medical practitioner right away.
Ear infection diagnosis and treatment
When an ear infection is suspected, your medical practitioner will use a special lighted instrument called an otoscope to check your or your child’s eardrum for signs of infection. In some cases, a pneumatic otoscope may be used to check for fluid behind the eardrum. If the ear infection diagnosis is confirmed, you may receive a prescription for an antibiotic. Your medical provider will also likely recommend the appropriate pain relievers, cold medicine, and/or ear drops based on your or your child’s age and other factors.
Generally, you should expect relief from ear infection symptoms within a few days. If symptoms don’t ease or they become worse, you should check in with your medical practitioner because a different antibiotic may be needed.
Can ear infections be prevented?
Patients of all ages can lower their risk of developing ear infections through frequent handwashing to prevent the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses. Here are a few additional tips for parents of infants:
- Don’t put your baby to bed with a bottle. The formula, milk, or juice from the bottle can cause irritation and swelling in your infant’s Eustachian tubes.
- Make sure your baby and older children get age-appropriate flu and pneumococcal conjugate vaccinations.
- Keep children away from secondhand smoke. Studies have shown that the risk of ear infection is higher for children when there are one or more smokers in the home.
DispatchHealth’s traveling medical teams have the skills and equipment needed to diagnose many non-life-threatening illnesses, including ear infections. Contact us today for more information.
For life-threatening and time-sensitive injuries and illnesses, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. DispatchHealth shouldn’t be used in a life-threatening emergency and doesn’t replace a primary care provider.
DispatchHealth relies only on authoritative sources, including medical associations, research institutions, and peer-reviewed medical studies.
Sources referenced in this article:
DispatchHealth helps reduce avoidable ER visits, a hospital admission or a skilled nursing facility stay by delivering high-acuity and cost-effective medical care to patients in their homes. DispatchHealth provides patient-centered care with an integrated delivery model and works in conjunction with health systems, payers, employers, senior living, provider groups and Emergency Medical Services. DispatchHealth’s current service lines include EMS (911 alternative), Acute Care (ER alternative), Bridge Care (readmission alternative), Advanced Care (hospital alternative), Extended Care (nursing facility alternative) and Clinic Without Walls (telehealth alternative).
Patients can also contact DispatchHealth directly via phone, app or website. DispatchHealth is partnered with most major insurance companies.