Prevention & Recovery

Ear and throat infections in children


Author: Canadian Living

Prevention & Recovery

Ear and throat infections in children


Just about every parent on the planet has spent nights trying to ease a child's ear or throat infection. In fact, ear infections are responsible for more sick child visits to pediatricians then any other illness.

Pediatrician Dr. Marvin Gans joined Balance Television host Dr. Marla Shapiro to help clear up some of the misconceptions people have about ear and throat infections.

Ear Infections

"When you're alone at night and your kid is screaming, it's really difficult," Gans said. "The most important thing for most parents to remember is, you don't need to run to the emergency department in the middle of the night with your child with an ear ache - you need to give them pain relief. The thing that's making them scream is the pain."

For pain relief, Gans recommends ibuprofen or something with codeine if you happen to have it in the house. The infection part can be treated the next day.

Most ear infections are bacterial, Gans said. There are new recommendations for children over the age of 2, he explained.

"If they had a sore ear last night, and they come to your office today and you look in the ear and it is a little bit red but not terrible, and they're not having a lot of pain, the best thing is to not treat them if you can," he said. "What I tend to do is give mothers a prescription for some antibiotics, tell them not to fill the prescription, put in their pocket, and as long as little Johnny is getting better, don't treat it."

The child is re-examined in 10 days. To the surprise of doctors and everyone else, the vast majority of those children get better without therapy.

If they start to scream or suffer pain, the parent has the prescription and can go ahead and get it filled and treat the child.

For children with recurrent ear infections, after 3-5 infections, pediatricians will likely use ventilating tubes. This remedy must be determined on a per-case basis. Taken into consideration is the time of year.

"As we approach the spring and the summer, we know that the likelihood is children will get better, the number of infections will decrease and they'll be fine," Gans said. "If they had one infection in September and they settle down and they're fine for a couple of months and they have another in January, then another in March or April and their ears have cleared in between, that's not a big issue."

On the other hand, if they have three bouts of infection in a short interval and the ears aren't clearing up in between, Gans said that's when you have to look at doing more, especially in the fall.
Congestion from teething or a cold can increase a child's risk of getting an ear infection.

Swimming does not cause ear infections, Gans said. It's a myth.

Throat Infections

The vast majority of throat infections -- approximately 80 per cent -- are viral. The rest are strep. Strep is the only treatable throat infection, for which penicillin is prescribed.

The gold standard for diagnosing throat infections are throat cultures. Doctors get the cultures back in 24 hours. Gans said there's no harm in waiting that time and deciding on a proper course of treatment, thus potentially minimizing antibiotic use.

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Prevention & Recovery

Ear and throat infections in children