Driscoll ENT specialist: Understanding ear infections

Ear infections can be a painful nuisance, especially to a child who may not understand what’s happening. Parents are often left feeling helpless and frustrated.

Offering some information on childhood ear infections is Syboney Zapata, MD, with the Driscoll Health System. Dr. Zapata is the only Fellowship-trained Pediatric Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Specialist in the region dedicated to the care of children.

What is an ear infection?

Dr. Zapata: An ear infection is an inflammatory process that happens inside the ear behind the eardrum.

What are some of the symptoms parents should look for in their children?

Dr. Zapata: Symptoms of ear infections include fever, pain inside the ear. Your child may be tugging or rubbing their ear if they’re young and they cannot communicate verbally. They may act very fussy and irritable. They may have trouble sleeping through the night. They may have a decreased appetite as well.

If children have frequent ear infections, what damage could this cause?

Dr. Zapata: Frequent ear infections can lead to chronic infections that can spread to other parts of the ear that would require surgery. There are situations where patients also have difficulty hearing because of retaining fluid in the air from an ear infection. This could then lead to speech issues or speech delay. In rare circumstances, the infection can spread into the bone behind the ear or even into the brain, causing meningitis.

How are ear infections treated?

Dr. Zapata: Most ear infections are treated with antibiotics that you take by mouth.