Treatment for a child's ear infection?
January 26, 2008 5:37 AM   Subscribe

My first-grader has pain in his right ear. It was keeping him up last night but the pain went away after a dosage of Tylenol. For the past week he's had a cold but the ear pain began just last night. Does anyone have advice for how to proceed with this thing I suspect is an ear infection? Our clinic is closed until Monday, and that is also the earliest I could get him to his chiropractor (he sees one since he painfully overextended his back on a waterslide last summer--but I hear chiropractors can help with ear infections too).
posted by mamaraks to Health & Fitness (14 answers total)
Chiropractors cannot help with ear infections.

My grandfather lost hearing in one ear at a young age because of an ear infection. That might be something you want to take into consideration before delaying treatment with Tylenol again.

If it's bad enough to keep him up, then I recommend the hospital.
posted by BeaverTerror at 5:48 AM on January 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Doctors used to routinely prescribe antibiotics for all ear infections. Now, not so much, in large part because studies question their effectiveness and also because it leads to antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria. Do your research on the internet to ease your fears. He will be fine until Monday. If the ears are draining pus then you might want to seek more immediate treatment. (Your child's doctor doesn't have weekend coverage? That borders on malpractice.)
posted by caddis at 5:55 AM on January 26, 2008

Find an urgent care clinic, it should be less than an hour to get in to see a doctor, get a diagnosis, and walk out with most likely a prescription for antibiotics.

I went to a chiropractor once, not knowing he was the "whole body healing" type. He did fix the back pain I was having, but surprisingly enough I didn't want to go back three more times that week, and two more each week after, so he could fix my allergies. At $75 per session. After $200 for the initial visit.

Not that I'm bitter/skeptical.
posted by shinynewnick at 5:55 AM on January 26, 2008 [2 favorites]

Uh, yeah. Chiropractors cannot do anything at all that could even remotely conceivably have any effect on an ear infection, barring "Hey, get your ass to an MD."

Ear infections, as alluded to above, can cause serious damage to the ears. Get thee to a doctor, pronto.

Anecdotally, I have had some success as an adult with minor ear infections by using garlic. Take a whole clove, peel it, cut off one end, and stick it in your ear. Not deep, obviously. Draws out excess liquid, and garlic is naturally antibiotic.

I am not a doctor in any way, shape, or form. That is anecdotal only. Don't mess around with your kid's health & hearing.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:01 AM on January 26, 2008

Thanks everybody. Caddis, just so you know, we only have an emergency room during the weekend...I think I will take him there this afternoon once it warms up out there. He is okay and watching cartoons right now. Thanks everyone for all the helpful suggestions so far.
posted by mamaraks at 6:03 AM on January 26, 2008

Ear infections commonly follow colds, in my experience. When I was a kid, I got ear infections quite often. I remember lots of trips to the doctor, but I was never taken to the emergency room for an ear infection.
posted by kidbritish at 6:26 AM on January 26, 2008

I'm not sure what the situation is where you are, but some of our local pharmacies have started to have non-pharmacist medical professionals on staff to simplify the process of getting a prescription for a common ailment. (CVS's version is called MinuteClinic.)

If you have that locally, it'll probably be faster and cheaper than going to the ER.
posted by Mr Stickfigure at 6:26 AM on January 26, 2008

IANAD; this is not medical advice. I did, however, have a lot of ear infections until I was about 20. If there's recurring ear pain for more than a few days, you *definitely* want to seee a doctor, if only to have it looked at. If it's just the one day, Tylenol, hot cloths (on the outside of the ear), and waiting it out are probably fine. The two major concerns are (a) a long-term ear infection that causes short-term hearing loss, and (b) a ruptured ear drum (which will usually heal on its own, but recurring infections like the ones I had can leave a permanent or semi-permanent hole).

A chiro can't do anything for ear infections. Anyone that claims they can is just relying (knowingly or not) on the tendency of ear infections to last just long enough that you seek out medical advice, and not much longer.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 8:01 AM on January 26, 2008

Couple of things to add, although I am also not a doctor.

My daughters don't suffers from many ear infections, however one ended up hospitalized for a week of IV antibiotics when a small ear infection turned into mastioditis in about 24 hours. Keep an eye out for any red patches behind the ear, and don't mess about if you see them.

I also agree that if the little guy can sleep through it, it can likely wait until Monday, so long as a bit of tylenol can help him deal with it.

And, while a chiro cannot treat an infection, if he has congestion issues in his sinuses that are leading to actual infection, a chiro can, in theory, help to open up those passages with some gentle manipulation.

And, no, I wasn't treating my one daughter's infection with chiropractic care when it turned into mastoiditis. I'm not a crackpot.
posted by Richat at 9:52 AM on January 26, 2008

I have a partial hearing loss in my right ear because of an ear infection I had at age four.

Please take your child to an Urgent Care center!
posted by konolia at 10:08 AM on January 26, 2008

A remote possibility, but: When I was a child I had ear pain that did not go away despite several attempts at treatment by our doctor. Turned out to be a dental problem.
posted by sageleaf at 11:29 AM on January 26, 2008

He does grind his teeth in his sleep sometimes. Perhaps that could cause the earache. Thanks for mentioning the dental issue, sageleaf. It gives me another thing to consider.
posted by mamaraks at 1:22 PM on January 26, 2008

As a graduate of several burst eardrums and hearing loss in my left ear, your kid will probably need antibiotics. As an adult, when I feel the extremely uncomfortable pressure of a bad earache, I use a decongestant, the kind that drys you up, to prevent another bloody eardrum bursting. I am not sure what the guidelines are for children so please make sure you know what you are doing before you give your kid anything.
posted by Foam Pants at 2:06 PM on January 26, 2008

It really depends on where the infection is (middle or outer ear). Try pulling his earlobe down gently, and see if that makes the pain worse (like shockingly worse)...if that's the case, it's probably an outer ear infection which is far less serious health wise (although it can still be painful) and you can use ear drops to clear it up. If it doesn't hurt more when you pull, then it's a middle ear infection (or referred pain like toothache or sinus infection) and like people have said above you'll really be wanting to see the doctor...this is unfortunately the most probable, since it's unlikely that he's been doing a lot of swimming recently (the most common cause of outer ear infections), whereas middle ear infections are usually byproducts of colds or sinus infections and pretty common this time of year.
posted by anaelith at 3:18 PM on January 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

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