How to Know if It’s an Ear Infection

She’s crying…again.  She seemed fine during the day, but now that it’s time for bed, she’s screaming.  Is she just overtired?  Being naughty about bedtime?  Or is there something seriously wrong?

As a new mom, I felt a lot of stress over knowing when to call the doctor or run to the emergency room.  It was even harder when they were too young to really tell me what was wrong.   Is it just a cold?  Or a bacterial infection that needs antibiotics?

One of my babies was a real screamer.  At his 6 week checkup, he screamed royally for the doctor. The doctor looked at me and said, “Does he do this often?”

“All the time,” I responded, exhausted.   I couldn’t just stay up with him at night holding him. We would have to leave the house, because his screaming would keep everyone awake.  There was nothing I could do, except put him in the jogger and run. If the breeze stopped cooling his face, he would scream.  2am.  3am.  I ran, so the family could sleep.  (You would think I would lose weight quickly that way…but nope.  Not a pound.)

“Take him to Children’s Mercy, Now.”  He said.  “I’m calling ahead, so they will expect you.”

I called my husband enroute to the hospital, who left work and met me there.  They asked me his symptoms.  “He screams,” I said.  They looked confused.  They ran a huge battery of tests.  They found NOTHING wrong.  We received a hefty bill to have our child diagnosed as “fussy.”

It made me cautious.  When do I call?  When is it just nothing?  I don’t have all the answers to that and it’s good to err on the side of being cautious.  But you can get a tool that will help you with your decision making.

There are more expensive versions for sure, but we have this one and for $15 it does the job well.  It comes with a little card showing what a healthy ear drum looks like and an infected one.  I don’t exactly self-diagnose with this, but If I look in there and see the angry red ear drum, we call the doctor.

As a novice, I would call the doctor and say, “He has an ear infection.”  They don’t like that.  Doctors went to school for 8 years to have the right to say, “he has an ear infection.”  I did not.  So now I call up and say, “He has an earache, a fever of 101, and when I looked inside with my otoscope I saw a red inflamed ear drum.”   Just facts, no diagnosis.  That goes a lot better.

P.S. The links are not affiliate links.  Just a product I personally have and hope will make your life easier.

P.P.S. I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV.  This post is not meant to diagnose or treat any disease.

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4 thoughts on “How to Know if It’s an Ear Infection

  1. Justine says:

    I have one of these! It has yet to be helpful for diagnosing a potential ear infection (between kids not sitting still, and me not knowing what I’m looking for, even with the pictures), but it has DEFINITELY been worth it’s $15 or so. Like, when my 3yo shoved an airsoft ball up his nose. I could use this to look and see that, yes, it was still there the next morning (even though he said it wasn’t). And when I get hard wax built up in my ears (TMI?) my husband uses it to help determine if we’re making progress with the ear wash.

  2. louisianamama says:

    I practice home medicine without a license, too. A home remedy that works for us (for 35 yrs.), a few drops at first signs (before fever) or after swimming, or a long play-bath: mix equal parts of white vinegar and rubbing alcohol. I keep a small bottle mixed all the time (the kind found in the beauty supply dept. with a twist spout, kind of like a glue bottle). My husband and I use it, too. Place head on mother’s lap, with a towel under head. Place a dry washcloth over top eye to shield. Place a few drops into ear, pull on earlobe to get it down in there, then roll head over to drain into towel. Do the other side, even if only one ear has symptoms. I have been told the vinegar kills fungus and the alcohol kills bacteria. I learned this remedy as a lifeguard. I am NOT a doctor. Use your children as guinea pigs, at your own risk.

    • Angela says:

      Hey Louisianamama, I know the alcohol is a real thing! Our doctor suggested alcohol in the ear after swimming to prevent swimmers ear and Hydrogen Peroxide to dissolve ear wax plugs. The vinegar is a new one to me, but it makes sense.

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