Cold & Ear Infection: How to Spot the Signs and Treat it

By Dr. Atish Laddad, Founder & Director at Docterz

It is a common sight to witness a cold, to be followed by an ear pain adding to the discomfort. Just like adults, the condition is equally upsetting for kids to bear. The pain may be an indication of an approaching ear infection and parents must comprehend the exact cause to get the child treated. The most common query that bothers parents is what exactly is the linkage between a cold and an ear infection.

Ear infections often come tagged along with a cold/flu since the middle ear is joined to the upper respiration tract by a tiny channel called Eustachian tube. Microbes growing in the nose or sinus cavities have the ability to climb up the Eustachian tube and enter the middle ear. But first parents must be able to categorize whether it is the cold symptoms that can cause ear pain. Or is the earache caused due to an ear infection.

When Cold Symptoms Include an Earache in toddlers:

It is common for a cold with simple symptoms like sneezing, nasal blockage, runny rose, sore throat and cough to translate into an ear discomfort. This happens because the eardrum tends to get inflamed by the viral contagion. The dull, sharp, or burning ear pain will subside immediately as your child’s cold symptoms get treated. Since colds are caused by germs, parents must first get started with treating cold symptoms to lessen infection. When germs causing pus and fluid starts to fill up in the space behind the eardrum, a second infection tends to occur inside the ear. This is especially noticed in some cases particularly for toddlers under age group of 8.

Earache in children due to ear infection

The signs which can help parents identify that the child has an ear infection rather than an earache because of a cold are:

• The discomfort does not go away with the other common cold signs experienced by your child.

• Child’s hearing capacity seems to be dulled.

• Your child may develop a fever or headache because of the sharp pain and may sometimes feel dizzy

• The child will experience difficulty in sleeping, loss of appetite, vomiting, and crankiness.

• Pain is more intense as compared to earaches caused by colds.

Children are more susceptible to ear infections as their Eustachian passages are shorter and narrower as compared to adults. This not only makes it easier for microorganisms to reach the middle ear, but it also means that fluid tends to be more easily trapped. Since kid’s immune systems are still developing, it can be challenging for them to combat infections. The most common types of ear infections in babies are Acute otitis externa (AOE), Otitis media, Otitis media with effusion (OME), and Acute otitis media (AOM).

Clinically diagnosing an ear infection in kids:

 To analyse whether the child has an ear infection, the paediatrician will use an otoscope to look for signs of infection inside the child’s ear. The signs comprise of:

• Protruding eardrum because of the formation of fluid and pus behind the eardrum

• An eardrum responding less compliantly than normal; this is usually checked by making use of a pneumatic otoscope.

• Murkiness of the eardrum. In such cases, the eardrum typically appears like a clear shower curtain.

• The child may experience difficulty in hearing due to the fluid built-up.

Considering the sudden weather fluctuations, the child falling prey to cold every now and then is an unavoidable episode. Parents must pay attention to the child’s common cold symptoms and up precautionary measures since these are very alike to signs of COVID 19. Following a timely vaccination schedule and avoiding contact with infected people can help kids stay guarded.

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