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Ear Infections - Topic Overview

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Most ear infections go away on their own, although antibiotics are recommended for children under the age of 2 and for children at high risk for complications. You can treat your child at home with an over-the-counter pain reliever like acetaminophen (such as Tylenol), a warm washcloth or heating pad on the ear, and rest. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20. Your doctor may give you eardrops that can help your child's pain.

Your doctor can give your child antibiotics, but ear infections often get better without them. Talk about this with your doctor. Whether you use them will depend on how old your child is and how bad the infection is.

Minor surgery to put tubes in the ears may help if your child has hearing problems or repeat infections.

Sometimes after an infection, a child cannot hear well for a while. Call your doctor if this lasts for 3 to 4 months. Children need to be able to hear in order to learn how to talk.

There are many ways to help prevent ear infections.

  • Do not smoke. Ear infections happen more often to children who are around cigarette smoke. Even the fumes from tobacco smoke on your hair and clothes can affect them.
  • Encourage hand-washing.
  • Breast-feed your baby.
  • Have your child immunized.
  • Make sure your child doesn't go to sleep while sucking on a bottle.
  • Try to limit the use of group child care.

Learning about ear infections:

Being diagnosed:

Getting treatment:

Ongoing concerns:

Helping a sick child:

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 10, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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