Ear Infections Symptoms Treatment Prevention

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. They tend to show up a week or so after a child has had a cold.

The tiny passages (Eustachian tubes) in babies’ and toddlers’ middle ears don't 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 doesn't 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

Common symptoms of an ear infection include

  • Irritability and fussiness, especially in non-verbal infants
  • Poor sleeping or eating
  • Pulling on the earlobe, especially in older infants and toddlers
  • Fever

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.

Preventing Ear Infection

You can reduce your child’s risk of ear infections by

  • breastfeeding as long as possible
  • decreasing exposure to tobacco smoke (research has found that kids with family members who smoke have more ear infections and fluid in their ears more often)
  • feeding your baby upright rather than lying flat
  • preventing your child from falling asleep with a bottle in his mouth
  • avoiding exposure to other children with colds

See also ...

So many colds 

Disclaimer: This page is not intended to provide medical advice about your child. Always seek the advice of a physician, qualified healthcare provider or child-development specialist with any questions you have about your child's health, medical condition or development. Never disregard, avoid or delay contacting a doctor or other qualified professional because of something you read here.

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