When a Child Gets an Ear Infection Over the Weekend

Baby Ear Exam
Baby Ear Exam. Stephen Chiang/Getty Images

 An ear infection can happen at any time, including over the weekend. Knowing where to get help for you child's ear infection when your doctor's office is closed can make a huge difference.

Ear infections are never convenient, but if your child develops symptoms of an ear infection over the weekend you need to know where to get treatment.

Where to Go When Your Child Develops an Ear Infection Over the Weekend

Your child's age is going to make a difference.

While there are distinct symptoms of ear infections, they overlap with other illnesses and if you have an infant under the age of six months you may not be able to pinpoint the cause of their distress. It is also recommended that children in this age group be given antibiotics for an ear infection while in older children it may be acceptable to wait and see if the ear infection is able to resolve on its own. This makes it even more important to seek out advice from a qualified physician when the patient is under the age of 6 months. Here are suggestions for getting your child appropriate medical care when they develop an ear infection over the weekend:

  1. Check with your doctor's office to see if they have an after-hours clinic. Many offices do this. If you are referred to the physician on-call, which is very likely, he or she may tell you what to do next. Follow your physician's advice above all but keep the following options in mind.
  1. Try taking your child to an after-hours clinic. These are clinics that remain open nights and weekends but are less expensive than the emergency room and are designed for less serious illnesses such as a weekend ear infection. If you are unable to locate one of these clinics, and you have insurance, you can call the member services number on your insurance card and ask them to help you locate a clinic. A useful website for finding after-hours clinics and other medical services is UCompareHealthCare.
  1. If your child does not have insurance, they are under the age of 6 months and/or have the symptoms listed below, take them to the emergency room. Legally your child cannot be turned away regardless of your ability to pay.
  2. If you have insurance, as a last resort you can take your child to the emergency room if they develop an ear infection over the weekend, but first consider the risks versus benefits and the condition of your child.

Your child needs to be seen by a doctor immediately if:

  • they have a high fever
  • they are inconsolable or complaining of severe pain
  • they are lethargic (you are unable to wake them up, they are slow to respond, abnormally sleepy or inactive)
  • they are unable or unwilling to eat or drink
  • you suspect dehydration (child is not urinating, has not had wet diapers, does not have tears, has dry or cracked lips)

These conditions may make a weekend trip to the ER necessary.

Tips For Comforting Your Child With an Ear Infection During the Weekend

If your child is not too sick but you suspect an ear infection, sometimes it's best to wait out the weekend and get an appointment with your regular pediatrician on Monday. You can control a fever and pain with over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen.

It also helps to keep your child propped up on pillows at night so that the auditory tube can drain, this can reduce ear pain. Lying down can cause pressure build up behind the ear drum which can be painful. Distraction is often a good technique for pain control: play a game, put in a favorite movie or do something else that your child loves.

Above all, do not hesitate to call your doctor after hours. Doctors take calls to handle situations like weekend ear infections. You should be able to contact your doctor by calling their office number. There should always a way to contact your physician after hours. If you cannot get a hold of them be persistent and assertive. When in doubt always take your child to an after-hours clinic or the ER.

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