Ear Infection Basics

Did you know that 2 out of 3 children get an ear infection by the time they are 3 years old?

Ear infections are caused by bacteria or viruses in fluid in the middle ear behind the eardrum and tend to show up a week or so after a child has had a cold.

The tiny passages in babies’ and toddlers’ middle ears do not drain as well as the larger ones in older children and adults, so fluid can build up and become infected more easily. Fluid without infection can cause mild discomfort, but does not need to be treated with antibiotics.

Standard infant vaccines for H. influenzae and pneumococcus bacteria have decreased ear infections significantly. And studies have shown that 80% of ear infections clear up without antibiotic treatment. Still, if you suspect your baby has an ear infection, have the child’s healthcare provider take a look. It’s important to rule out other causes of ear pain and to determine whether antibiotics are needed.

Symptoms and Treatment of Ear Infections

  • Babies and pre-verbal toddlers may show their discomfort by being irritable, fussy and sleeping or eating poorly.
  • An older baby or toddler may also pull on his earlobe.
  • Fever may be present, too.

Whether there’s an infection or not, if your baby has ear pain, you can help him feel better with infant pain reliever (acetaminophen, for example). Be sure to read the dosing guidelines on the bottle carefully.

See also ...

•  Ear infections and antibiotics

•  Pediatric guidelines on treating ear infections

This message is not intended to provide individual medical advice. Always seek the advice of a physician or qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have about your health or medical condition, your breastfeeding issues and your infant's health. Never disregard, avoid or delay contacting a doctor or other qualified professional because of something you have read in our emails, webpages or other electronic communications.

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