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Ear Infections

Statesman Journal Living Well September 2014

Ear Infections in Children

Ear infections are common in children—in fact, next to colds, children contract ear infections more often than any other ailment.  Infants and toddlers between the ages of 6 months and 24 months are especially susceptible.  Because ear infections often follow a cold or occur simultaneously, they can be easy to miss, particularly in children who are too young to vocalize what they are feeling. 

Telling Symptoms of Ear Infections in Infants and Toddlers

  • Fever above 102 degrees
  • Increased irritability
  • Increased discomfort when lying down
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fluid draining from ear

Recent studies have shown that antibiotics are not always needed to treat ear infections, and that 80% will clear up on their own.  About a third of ear infections have a viral cause, which will not respond to antibiotics.  If the infection is caused by bacteria, there is still a chance it will improve without antibiotic treatment.  With children younger than two, however, antibiotics are almost always administered, due to a higher risk of complications from ear infections.

A visit to the child’s family practitioner is recommended if an ear infection is suspected.  Your doctor can give you the best advice for your child’s treatment, based on the little one’s age, history, and other factors.

Ways to Help Prevent Ear Infections in Your Child

  • Breastfeeding
  • Vaccinating
  • Avoid secondhand smoke
  • Choose a daycare with fewer children (less risk of exposure)
  • Remove allergens in your home if you suspect your child has allergies
  • Make sure your child’s head is higher than his or her stomach when drinking from a bottle


These actions can help with prevention, but if your child suffers from recurrent ear infections, your family practitioner may recommend further treatment, such as having tubes placed in the ears.

Tanie Hotan, MD
Aumsville Medical Clinic
Part of Santiam Hospital

Adult Ear Infections

Though most common in children, adults can also suffer from ear infections.  The most common type of ear infection in adults is referred to as “swimmer’s ear,” because it is often seen in those who spend a lot of time in the water.  When the ear fills with contaminated water, the warm, moist conditions of the outer ear make it susceptible to the growth of germs and bacteria.

Symptoms of Swimmer’s Ear:

  • Ear redness & itchiness
  • Flaking skin on the ear
  • Drainage from the ear
  • Pain when the ear is touched or when moving the head
  • Fever

Ways to Prevent Swimmer’s Ear:

  • Use ear plugs while swimming
  • Gently dry ears with a blow dryer on lowest setting after swimming/bathing
  • Do not attempt to clean your ears with Q-tips
  • Do not swim in polluted water

About Santiam Hospital

Santiam Hospital & Clinics is a not-for-profit, 40 bed acute-care hospital located in Stayton, Oregon, which is a short 12-mile drive east of Salem, and serves more than 30,000 people annually from the communities of Stayton, Sublimity, Aumsville, Mill City, Jefferson, and the surrounding areas.

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  1401 North 10th Ave.
Stayton, OR 97383

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