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Are Ear Drops Effective For Ear Infections?

How To Use Ear Drops Effectively

Dr. Coral Yap Profile Photo

Written by Dr. Coral Yap on June 21, 2021

If you have a little one at home, chances are you’ve had to deal with an ear infection at some point. Ear infections are the most common reason parents bring their kids to the doctor. Everyone knows that they’re painful and pesky, but sometimes it can be hard to figure out what the best form of treatment is.

This article will take a look at how effective ear drops are for treating ear infections and a few other remedies you can try to get your little one feeling better.

Overview of Ear Infection

The term “ear infection” is used to describe any kind of inflammation in the middle ear. Usually, inflammation happens when there’s a buildup of fluid behind the eardrum. Although ears are surprisingly complicated, there are really only three parts you need to know about: the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear.

Basically, the outer ear is everything you can see, and the ear canal which is the part of the ear that extends from the ear opening to the eardrum (it’s what doctors are looking at when they stick the pointy black tool in your ear!). The middle ear is, you guessed it, the part of the ear between the eardrum and the inner ear and is where the infections occur. The inner ear contains lots of important things that help keep your balance and turn vibrations into sound.

Causes

Just like with other common types of infections, ear infections are often caused by bacteria. If your little one has a sore throat, cold, or another type of upper respiratory infection, then there are already bacteria in their system. This bacteria can easily spread to the middle ear where it can infect the fluid that’s built up due to inflammation. Once this happens, a secondary infection occurs.

The most important thing to remember in terms of the causes of ear infections is that they usually accompany other illnesses like the common cold, flu, or allergies. If your kid is trying to fight off a sickness that causes congestion and swelling in their nose, then they’re at a greater risk for developing an ear infection.

There are tubes called eustachian tubes that connect the middle ear to the back of the throat. When your kid has a cold or bad allergies, these tubes can get swollen and become blocked. It’s this blockage that allows fluid to build up.

Symptoms

There are several symptoms of ear infections but the most obvious is definitely ear pain, especially when lying down.

You might also know your little one is fighting off an ear infection if they...

  • Tug or pull at their ear to try and relieve pain
  • Have trouble sleeping, especially falling asleep
  • Seem to cry more than normal or are generally irritable
  • Have trouble hearing
  • Cannot balance as well as usual
  • Have a fever of 100 F or more
  • There’s some fluid draining from their ear
  • Experience headache or a loss of appetite

Why are ear infections more common in kids?

Although adults can absolutely get ear infections too, they’re much more common in kids for a few reasons. Kid’s eustachian tubes, the ones that connect their middle ear to their throats, are smaller and more horizontal in kids than they are in adults. This means it’s harder for fluids to drain out of their ears. Think of balls dropping down a staircase. The larger and steeper the staircase is, the faster the balls will reach the bottom. The same goes for fluid in the ears.

Alongside their smaller, level tubes, kids are also at higher risk for an ear infection because their immune systems are still developing. If you’ve ever been to your kid’s preschool you might have noticed that it seems like there’s always one or two sick kids. Kids are more susceptible to illness because their immune systems have less experience fighting off illness than adults’.

When should I call the doctor?

Given that ear infections are so painful and disruptive and there are oral antibiotics that can treat them, it’s a good idea to call your doctor if your kid’s ear pain lasts longer than a day. If your little one is younger than 6 months old, it’s a good idea to call your pediatrician right away. Other signs that it might be a good idea to call your doctor is if you notice that there’s some fluid coming from your little one’s ear or they seem really irritable after having a cold or another infection.

Are ear drops effective?

Now that you know all about how to identify an ear infection and what causes them, you might be wondering: how can I treat my little one if they get an ear infection? One common remedy for ear infections is ear drops. The answer as to whether or not they’re effective is kind of complicated because there are a few different kinds of ear drops.

Prescription Ear Drops

One of the first things a doctor will do if they diagnose your kid with an ear infection is to prescribe them some kind of medication. Often this will include an oral antibiotic and sometimes a prescription ear drop. Prescription ear drops have either antibiotics or steroids in them. They have been proven to help relieve the symptoms of ear drops.

OTC Ear Drops

The other type of ear drops available is over-the-counter disinfectant drops. The idea behind this type of ear drop is that they help to dry the ear out rather than treat the infection, like the prescription drops. Although they might provide some relief, there’s no evidence to show that OTC ear drops are as effective as prescription drops in treating ear infections. That being said, unless a doctor recommends OTC drops for your kid, it’s a good idea to use other, more effective remedies and medications to soothe their pain.

Ear Infection Medication

Although over-the-counter ear drops might not be the most helpful thing to treat ear infections, there are a few over-the-counter medications you can give your kid to relieve their pain while their body fights off the infection.

OTC Pain Reliever

If your little one seems to be in a lot of pain, you can try giving them Genexa’s Kids’ Pain & Fever, a liquid medication that provides temporary relief from a range of cold and flu symptoms. The active ingredient in this medication is acetaminophen which can help relieve pain and reduce fever. This medication would be especially beneficial if your kid was still experiencing other cold or flu symptoms such as headache, sore throat, or toothache because it treats all aches and pains.

Cold & Flu

If you think you’re child’s ear infection is a result of a common cold or flu and they are still actively experiencing symptoms such as cough, congestion, or runny nose, it’s a good idea to give them something like Genexa’s Kids’ Cold Crush, a homeopathic remedy. Coughing and sneezing tend to worsen the symptoms of an ear infection, so it’s important to make sure your little one gets some relief from those while their body is fighting off the infection.

If you’re looking for something slightly stronger to suppress their cough and get the mucus out of their system, you can also try Genexa’s Kids’ Cough & Chest Congestion. This liquid medication is a powerful cough suppressant and expectorant that helps control cough, relieves chest congestion, and helps thin and loosen mucus.

Allergy

If your kid is prone to allergies and frequently gets ear infections as a result of them, you can treat their allergies with Genexa’s Kids’ Allergy medication. This medicine provides safe, effective relief from common allergy symptoms due to hay fever and other upper respiratory allergies. These symptoms can include runny nose, sneezing, itching of the nose, itching of the throat, and itchy, watery eyes. If the symptoms of allergies go untreated, they can turn into an ear infection, so it’s important to treat them quickly and effectively.

Is there any medication I should avoid?

Yes! The FDA issued a warning about products for the ear containing all of the following ingredients:

  • Benzocaine
  • Benzocaine and antipyrine
  • Benzocaine, antipyrine, and zinc acetate
  • Benzocaine, chloroxylenol, and hydrocortisone
  • Chloroxylenol and pramoxine
  • Chloroxylenol, pramoxine, and hydrocortisone

For this reason, it’s best to buy medication for your children from reliable, trustworthy brands such as Genexa.


Conclusion

Ear infections are extremely painful, and unfortunately, due to the shape of children’s middle ears, they are more prone to ear infections than adults. If your little one can’t talk, you might be able to tell that they have an ear infection if they are tugging at their ear lobe or aren’t able to sleep through the night.

While it might be tempting to give them over-the-counter ear drops, it’s a good idea to give them over-the-counter pain medication and take them to see a doctor if their symptoms last for longer than a day.



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