Eyes, Ears, Mouth and Nose

 

Pink eye (Conjuctivitis) is highly contagious and requires treatment with antibiotic eye drops (no prescription required).

PINK EYE (PINKEYE) or CONJUCTIVITIS
 
Symptoms of pinkeye include yellow pus discharge in the eye, which may cause eyelashes or eyelids to stick together, especially after sleeping.  Eyes are usually red or pink, but may remain white.  There may be dried pus discharge underneath the eye, on the cheek.

For treatment of pinkeye, you will need to purchase some antibiotic eye drops.  They are available without a prescription, as an over the counter medication.

Before using the drops, the eye must be thoroughly cleaned with warm wet cotton balls or a thin soft washcloth.  Be very gentle in removing the crusty areas.  They may not come off right away and you may need to hold the washcloth against the eye for a few minutes to soften a harden crust.  Washing the eyes should be done throughout the day, perhaps every hour.  Be sure to use clean dedicated cloths for this task, and never take a used eye cloth to wash someone else’s body.    The pus is highly contagious and easily spread.  Pinkeye is easily transmitted to other family members and from one child’s infected eye to his other, healthy eye.

Holding your child can be a difficult task when putting in the drops.  Usually after the first day, the child becomes used to it, and understands that it doesn’t hurt.  On the first day, you may require two adults to do the drops; one to hold the child, the other to insert the drops.  Have the child lay down on the couch or bed.

Antibiotic eye drops must go into the eye (successfully) 4 times per day, most prescriptions are 2-3 drops per eye.  While the child is lying down, insert the drops by gently pulling down on the lower lid.  If it is difficult to open the child’s eye, place the drop over the inner corner of the eye.  When s/he opens the eye, the drop will slide into the eye.  It is best if the child will rest for a minute with the eyes only very gently closed and not squeezed shut.  Continue the drops as per the package directions.  If you stop using the drops too early, then the infection may come back.

Hygiene is an important concern to prevent the spread of this contagious infection to other family members, and to the child’s other eye.  Your child must avoid touching or rubbing the eye, do very regular handwashing (parents too!), and do not share any towels or washcloths during this time.

Your child can return to school/daycare after using the drops for 24 hours if there is no pus discharge.

 

EAR INFECTIONS (OTITIS MEDIA)

Ear infections in children are very common.  Most children under the age of 2 will have experienced at least one ear infection.  Most ear infections occur as a child is recovering from a cold.  Children who breathe in second hand smoke have a higher risk of developing ear infections.  Most children stop getting ear infections by the age of 6.

Symptoms of ear infections include pain and fever, sometimes with temporary hearing loss, and occasionally with discharge coming out of the ear.

Infections of the middle ear most often occur during cold and flu season.  If your child has ear pain after a day of swimming, he may have an outer ear infection, called swimmer’s ear.

If you suspect an ear infection, call the doctor for an appointment right away.  Antibiotics may be required.  If your doctor prescribes antiobiotics, be sure to use them as directed and administer the full dose, meaning don’t stop the treatment too soon (or the infection may come back.)

Often times, ear infections begin in the middle of the night when the doctor’s office is closed.  Here are some things you can do to make your child more comfortable in the meantime.

  1. Give medication for the fever and pain, either acetaminophen or ibuprofen, according to package directions (never give aspirin to children under the age of 21 due to the risk of Reye’s Syndrome.)
  2. Do not give decongestants , cough medications, or menthol as they may actually make things worse.
  3. Take child into a steamy bathroom for 20 minutes.
  4. Put a warm washcloth over the ear.
  5. Put 2-3 drops of olive oil into the ear OR 2-3 drops of salt water.
  6. If pain persists for 2 hours after administering pain medication, take the child to the emergency room. 
STREP THROAT

A doctor's visit to diagnose strep throat is important to determine if antibiotics are required.

Strep throat is an infection by the Streptococcus bacteria.  The bacteria cause the throat to be inflamed and red, and usually affects the tonsils as well.

That said, the most common cause of sore throats in infants and children is a virus and not strep.  Often it is accompanied by low fever or cold-like symptoms.

Children who have strep throat are generally more ill than those with a viral cold.  Often the appetite is diminished, they have thick nasal discharge, pus on the tonsils, swollen lymph nodes in the neck and fever over 102 F.  It’s important that your child see a doctor for a throat culture test.  Most doctors perform rapid strep tests which provide answers in less than 10 minutes.  If your child has strep throat, s/he will need to take antibiotics as prescribed by the doctor.  Strep infections can worsen and become serious without treatment.

 

TONSILLITIS

Inflammation of the tonsils is fairly common in children and is caused by an infection.  Symptoms of tonsillitis include red and swollen tonsils, white or yellow pus pockets on the tonsils, a sore throat, painful swallowing, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, fever.

If your child is experiencing the symptoms of tonsillitis, call your doctor for a diagnosis.  Antibiotics may be prescribed to eliminate the infection.

Some children who have repetitive tonsil infections do need to have their tonsils removed.  However, this procedure is not recommended nearly as often as it was thirty years ago.