Ask Dr. Gigi

Children's Minnesota in the News, Mighty Blog

Ear-infection prevention, diagnosis and treatment

Gigi Chawla, MD, senior medical director of primary care for Children’s Minnesota, joined WCCO Mid-Morning hosts Kylie Bearse and Jason DeRusha to discuss the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of ear infections in kids.

Tips for preventing ear infections:

  • Avoid cigarette smoke.
  • Wash kids’ hands regularly to prevent colds, which put kids at risk for ear infections.
  • Breastfeeding reduces an infant’s risk of an ear infection.
  • Get your child his or her immunizations. The pneumococcal vaccine alone could prevent up to 20 percent of ear infections.
  • Don’t let babies fall asleep with a bottle.

Still, there’s no guarantee that a child won’t get an ear infection. Kids often get colds and put their hands in their mouths, which can spread germs. Children ages 3-6 months can develop fluid that persists in the middle ear, behind the eardrum.

Symptoms of an ear infection may include fever, crying, pain when reclining or swallowing.

Often, acute ear infections don’t need antibiotic treatment because they resolve on their own. Some infections, however, require antibiotic treatment.

For patients who have recurrent ear infections or persistent fluid behind their eardrums, treatment may include surgery to receive tympanostomy tubes or ear tubes. Most tubes can last between six and 18 months. It’s important to treat ear infections seriously, especially recurrent or chronic ones, to make sure kids’ hearing is preserved so they can build language skills.