The Fear of an Ear Infection

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Sonya’s right ear, which had developed an infection at the mastoid

A couple weeks ago, Sonya developed an ear infection. It may have started on the way home from our vacation. As the plane descended, Sonya screamed in pain. “Ee-ya!” she said, pointing to her right ear. She seemed fine once we landed, however. I didn’t think much of it.

A week later, Sonya had developed dark red circles under her eyes. They looked irritated, so I tried to use a warm compress on them a few times a day. It didn’t help. A day later, Sonya developed red dots across her cheeks and neck. She would hold her ear and cry “ee-ya, ee-ya!”

The pediatrician saw redness in her ear, but nothing more. It was only in the ear canal, so he gave us Cefdenir, an antibiotic, and drops. I felt relief knowing that we had caught the infection early.

The next morning, as Sonya played in her room, I noticed her right ear was sticking straight out of her head. The infection had spread. I immediately called her pediatrician’s office. A nurse told me to contact Sonya’s surgeon.

While ear infections are one of the most common ailments among young children, kids with cochlear implants are at higher risk for complications. Major infections may have serious consequences, as infections in the ear can (in rare cases) move to the surgical site. While rare, such infections occur more frequently in pediatric patients according to a recent study.

Sonya’s ear infection had spread to her mastoid, which is the back part of the temporal bone. By the time our surgeon looked at it, gunk was coming out of her ear. Thankfully, the surgeon changed her prescription to Augmentin, which is a more comprehensive blend of antibiotics. Within a week, the ear was back to normal.

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Sonya’s right ear, a few days later. Still sticking out but not red.

Today, Sonya is doing great, and the infection seems to have cleared completely. That said, the experience helped me realize that while Sonya may seem like any other kid, she unfortunately, is more prone to complications arising from infection and if we are not vigilant, things can go south quickly. It was very frightening how quickly what seemed to be a mild ear infection moved to her surgical site.

From this experience, I plan to purchase an otoscope. While I can’t diagnose an ear infection, I can at least see what a healthy ear looks like and it will give me piece of mind to be able to see into Sonya’s ear when needed.

Update: We recently visited Sonya’s surgeon. He suggested that Sonya get her Pneumovax 23 vaccine before our trip to Europe  at the end of the summer. This vaccine is typically given to kids with CIs around their second birthday, but he didn’t see a downside with her getting it a month earlier. Our pediatrician agreed. As for the otoscope, Sonya’s surgeon did not recommend one. He said that we could actually do more damage to Sonya’s ear by probing too far in by accident.

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