Ear, Ear

Ear infections have been the bane of my parenting experience.

I suffered from them as a child, and so did Dan (plus colic — thank goodness that wasn’t passed along to our progeny), and we have definitively passed them on to our children.

I distinctly remember that Flora’s first ear infection coincided with her first birthday. Kate started sooner, I want to say at about nine months, although it may have been as early as six. She got ear tubes shortly after her second birthday.

Michael was diagnosed with his first ear infection this week. I’m glad I posted all those nice things about him recently because since Tuesday night, he has been a complete bear.

He was restless as hell Tuesday into Wednesday. One of the rules of the Interwebs seems to be: If you post about how your child is sleeping, either well or badly, he/she will do the exact opposite at the earliest opportunity.

But he didn’t wake up crying or anything, nor did he seem unusally warm. So I got him dropped off at daycare on Wednesday morning. And DCL called by the time I was sitting down at my desk. M was crying and running a temperature. He had been congested for a couple of days (Kate, too, had been sick and congested, the week before). I called the pediatrician’s office, and off we went.

On the way to picking M up that afternoon — I couldn’t get an appointment until 1:30 p.m., and DCL reported that after some acetaminophen and a bottle, M had settled down — I had black thoughts. Most of them about RSV and trips to the hospital. I just was incredibly worried, and let my mind kick into overdrive.

The pediatrician who saw us (whom I think of, with apologies to my very handsome husband, as HotDoc) is familiar with our family history of ear infections. He was the one who eventually referred Kate for ear tubes.

HotDoc seemed a little grim when he first came into the exam room. He’s usually a much friendlier guy, easy around the kids, and I just thought maybe he was having a bad day. The doctor’s office seemed to be quite busy.

But he warmed up and deftly checked Michael over, even taking special pains with the ears. After a thorough examination, he declared M had an infection in his right ear. Antibiotics were ordered, and he told me to make an appointment to have M for a recheck in two weeks.

I mentioned I already had an appointment for two weeks; it was Michael’s four-month well baby visit. I said, “That can serve as his recheck, right?” HotDoc agreed and then burst out, “Vaccinations can prevent this sort of thing.”

I raised my brows at him, and said, “Michael will start receiving vaccinations at his next visit.”

We left it at that.

Dan and I have talked with our peditricians extensively about the vaccination schedule. We have decided to follow a less aggressive schedule, and the peds have agreed, with their usual disclaimers. I’m not fazed; my children will be and have been appropriately vaccinated.

But I do find myself with a lot of “what ifs”. What if Michael had breastfed longer? Both the girls BF’ed for nearly 10 months, yet they were still plagued with ear infections. What if I take away M’s binky? Flora was not a binky baby, and had fewer infections than her sister, who was a binky baby. But they both still got infections. What if Michael had gotten shots at 2 months? Would he still have gotten Kate’s cold/flu, and gotten an ear infection? What if I hadn’t had to go back to work — would me being a SAHM have prevented M from getting sick because he wouldn’t have gotten exposed to as many germs?

I know there are no good answers, especially to the first one and last two questions. I will ask the ped about M’s binky on his next visit. Let’s also be clear: I’m not blaming myself for M’s ear infection. Well, aside from blaming my genes, and there’s not much I can do about having passed those along.

As of today, he is definitely feeling better. He slept better last night, although not perfectly, fussing up through 10 p.m., and waking at 3 a.m. His temp is down and his pleasant personality has reasserted itself. I feel bad that he felt so bad, and I wish I could make it up to him.

2 thoughts on “Ear, Ear

  1. Some kids are just prone to it. Don’t let the what if’s run away with you. I breastfed both of my kids for 10.5 months. Liam was a sick, nasty mess as a kid. Pretty much the second he went into daycare he started getting sick all. the. time. Bad ears, especially. He had tubes about 2 wks before he turned two. Oh and guess what? He got off the paci all by himself at the age of 7 mos and all his ear problems came AFTER that. Being home home only delayed the onset of his issues. But he still had them and it still sucked.

    Jamie, on the other hand, had a paci until around 16 months. I took it away at that point (he was down to just naps and bed anyway) and guess what? His ear infections have picked up. We’re on the verge of tubes with him now, too. One more infection (and he’s got a fever today – low grade, so we’ll see) and we’re tube bound. We had one ER doc try to tell us that the paci was the reason he had an ear infection but he has never ONCE had an infection that didn’t also accompany some kind of cold or respiratory virus – same for Liam. I blame the virus, not the paci.

    And as much as I am a HUGE proponent of vaccinating according to the schedule set by the CDC, vaccines aren’t going to prevent ear infections. Nothing they vaccinate for is going to prevent colds and upper respiratory viruses – and those are what inevitably turned into ear infections for my kids.

    Hang in there. You are doing everything you’re supposed to be doing for Michael and he’s going to be OK. I promise you will, too. *hugs*

  2. My son, Zach, has infections in both ears right now; we’re on day four of antibiotics today. He hasn’t been as bad lately, though, with respect to getting ear infections every time he catches something from his daycare friends.

    I second everything Cari said, though; the only thing that is a cause for Zach’s ear infections are another virus. He has only gotten an ear infection after he has had a cold for several days.

    I think most of the other suspected factors are only true in a minority of cases, and have spread as generalized falsehoods. There have been many times that I feel that doctors in general have been given bad information either from poorly done or inadequate studies, or due to some misunderstood underlying cause during a study. And while I base much of my life on science and the scientific method, it is easy to get things wrong when there are perceived commonalities in your experiment that don’t really have any effect on the outcome.

    In any case, I hope Michael recovers quickly and well.

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