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Frequently Asked Questions - Homepage
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Q: My child is screaming with pain. I think it's his ear. Should I take him to Emergency?

A: No! If your child wakes up at 3 a.m. screaming and pulling on an ear, do NOT automatically rush to the Emergency Room. Although painful, earaches are rarely life-threatening emergencies, although the pain can be alarming.


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Q: What can I do right away at home?

A:  Treat the pain. Give your child a children's dose of either acetaminophen (Panadol, Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) but not aspirin.  Avoid antihistamines.  If it's the middle of the night, wait until morning, then decide what to do. 


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Q: What are the Symptoms of an Ear Infection?

A: Irritability, crying, malaise, fever, diminished appetite, and ear pulling are common, often accompanied by runny nose, congestion, and eye inflammation.


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Q: What causes Middle Ear Infections?

A: The canal that runs from the ear to the mouth (the Eustachian tube) is tiny in small children. As a result of a cold, flu, or allergies, the Eustachian tube can become plugged and a breeding ground for bacteria.  By the age of six, children usually grow out of ear infections as the Eustachian tube grows larger.


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Q: Are Antibiotics the Only Cure for Ear Infections?

A: No! The overuse of antibiotics weakens the body's own defense system, making kids more likely to get future infections. Given time (up to 3 to 4 days) most ear infections - about 80% - are overcome by the immune system.  Watchful waiting is the better alternative.


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Q: What Does "Watchful Waiting" mean?

A: Regularly checking your kid's ears during the cold season is prudent.  You can watch ear infections wax and wane, but you must be able to see into the ear canal.  EARscopes allow you to do that so you can become familiar with your child's ear patterns better than a doctor who only sees your child occasionally.


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Q: What is an EARscope?

A: An EARscope is the same instrument as the "otoscope" that medical providers use to look into ears, except ours is made for home use.  It is lighter, easier to use, and less expensive.  It is safe when used as directed.


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Q: Can I Learn to Use an EARscope?

A: 

Yes. Each EARscope comes with an illustrated instruction booklet on how to use it and what to look for. Practice on adult ears first. Once you feel comfortable looking into adult ears, try it with your child. Be sure to look first at the 'well' ear, rather than the painful one. This will give you a comparison and also show the child that you are not causing pain. A more detailed discussion of ear exams is in Dr. Moser's illlustrated book, EARS, An Owner's Manual.

 

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Q: How can I tell what to look for in the ear?

A: 

The ear drum and ear canal are not mysterious, just hidden. With experience you can learn to notice small changes to the canal and drum, and since you have constant access to your child's ears you will know better than anyone what appears normal. But ears can fool you: crying can cause ear drums to be red without an infection and middle ear fluid behind the ear drum is difficult to see. To confuse things more, not all ear pain is caused by infection, not all infection is caused by bacteria, and not all bacterial infections need antibiotics.  "Watchful waiting" helps sort this out. 

Have your medical provider show you what to look for, or see actual photographs of eardrums in Dr. Moserís book Ears, an Owner's Manual (see samples here on our site.)  Such regular monitoring of ears at home will give you a continuing progress report, something even your doctor wonít have. 

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Q: How can I Prevent Future Ear Infections?

A: 

  •  Breast-feed your baby, if possible.
  •  If you use a bottle, elevate the baby's head.
  •  Avoid spreading colds by regular hand washing.
  •  Provide a smoke-free environment.
  •  Know that placing your child in day-care increases exposure to infections.
  •  Help bolster the immune system by avoiding antibiotics, if possible.


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Q: What serious Complications should I know about?

A: There are serious, but rare, complications of ear infections.  Especially, be watchful for tenderness of the bone behind the ear, high fever, headache, stiff neck, or general listlessness. For these reasons, you should be in contact with your medical provider if symptoms persist. 


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