How to tell if your baby has an ear infection
The simplest way to inform if your baby may have an ear infection (or other disease, for that matter) is by observing a modification in his state of mind.
If your baby turns picky, or begins sobbing more than typical, watch for an issue. If he develops a fever (whether small or high) you have another big clue. Ear infections have the tendency to strike after an acute rhinitis or sinus infection, so keep that in mind too.
You might also discover the following symptoms:
- Your baby pulls, grabs, or yanks at his ears. This might be a sign he’s in pain. (Babies do pull on their ears for all type of factors or for no reason at all. So if your baby seems otherwise great, he most likely does not have an ear infection.).
- Diarrhea or vomiting. The bug that causes the ear infection can likewise affect the intestinal tract.
- Decreased cravings. Ear infections can cause gastrointestinal upset. They can also make it painful for your baby to swallow and chew. You might notice your baby retreat from the breast or bottle after he takes the first few sips.
- Yellow or whitish fluid draining pipes from the ear. This does not take place to most babies, however it’s a sure sign of infection. It likewise signifies that a little hole has established in the eardrum. (Don’t worry– this will recover when the infection is alleviated.).
- Unpleasant smell. You may identify a nasty odor coming from your child’s ear.
- Problem sleeping. Resting can make an ear infection more painful.
How common are ear infections in babies?
Ear infections are the 2nd most frequently detected health problem in children in the United States (after the acute rhinitis). About half of babies have at least one ear infection by the time they turn 1 year old, and many have had at least one ear infection by their 3rd birthday.
What causes ear infections in babies?
An ear infection can be brought on by bacteria or a virus. It happens when fluid develops in the area behind your baby’s eardrum and after that becomes infected.
Generally any fluid that enters this area leaves quite quickly through the eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear to the back of the nose and throat. But if the eustachian tube is obstructed– as typically occurs during colds, sinus infections, even allergic reactions– the fluid gets trapped in the middle ear.
Bacteria prefer to grow in dark, warm, damp places, so a fluid-filled middle ear is the perfect breeding place. As the infection gets worse, the swelling in and behind the eardrum also has the tendency to aggravate, making the condition more painful.
Fever might develop as your baby’s body efforts to fight the infection. The medical term for this condition– a painfully inflamed middle ear, an accumulation of fluid, a red eardrum, and periodically a fever– is severe otitis media (AOM).
Using a pacifier might increase the risk of middle ear infections in babies and children. In one research study, the occurrence of ear infections was 33 percent lower in babies who didn’t use pacifiers.
Babies are especially prone to ear infections because they have brief (about 1/2 inch), horizontal eustachian tubes. As children grow to adulthood, their tubes triple in length and end up being more vertical, so fluid can drain more quickly.
When to call the doctor if your baby has an ear infection.
Call at the first sign of an ear infection. The doctor will need to search in your baby’s ear with an instrument called an otoscope. An eardrum that’s red, bulging, and perhaps draining pipes is most likely infected.
The doctor might also inspect whether the eardrum moves in reaction to a device called a pneumatic otoscope, which launches a short puff of air into the ear. If it’s not moving, that’s another sign that fluid is gathering in the center ear and might be infected.
What’s the treatment for an ear infection in a baby?
A lot of ear infections clear up by themselves, however severe cases have to be treated with antibiotics. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises medical professionals and parents to discuss whether it’s best to take a wait-and-see method or begin antibiotics when symptoms are still fairly moderate.
For several years, antibiotics were the first line of defense against ear infections, but now physicians are recommending them more judiciously. Getting too many antibiotics is an issue since it can set children approximately be vulnerable to antibiotic-resistant infections.
If your baby is at least 6 months old, your doctor may suggest that you provide him infants’ acetaminophen or ibuprofen to ease pain brought on by the infection. (Never give your baby aspirin since it makes him more prone to Reye’s syndrome, an uncommon however potentially fatal condition.).
Do not think twice to call your doctor if your baby seems to be getting worse or hasn’t enhanced significantly after a few days. If your baby isn’t really doing much better after 48 to 72 hours, the doctor may wish to begin antibiotics and have you return for a follow-up exam. If your baby is taking an antibiotic but does not improve after a couple of days, the doctor may wish to switch the medication or examine your child once again.
If your doctor does recommend antibiotics, make certain to provide your child the complete course. You might need to follow up with another ear test a few weeks later on so the doctor can identify how well the medication worked.
How to prevent future ear infections.
Ear infections aren’t contagious, however the respiratory infections that often precede and accompany them are. The best method to reduce the spread of bacteria is to clean your hands (and your child’s hands) typically– and constantly after using the toilet, changing diapers, and prior to eating or preparing food.
You can likewise:
Keep your baby’s vaccinations existing. Immunizations assist prevent specific health problems that can lead to an ear infection. For instance, the Hib vaccine has actually assisted significantly in reducing the variety of ear infections in babies, and the pneumococcal vaccine can help prevent them as well.
If your baby has actually suffered repeated ear infections, particularly after bouts of the flu, talk to your doctor about whether your child must get an annual flu vaccine. (Only children a minimum of 6 months old can get a flu shot.).
Breastfeed your baby for at least six months. A study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, released in the journal Pediatrics, revealed that children who are breastfed for the first 6 months of life are less likely to develop ear infections. In fact, the risk of ear infections was 70 percent greater in formula-fed babies.
Some practitioners, including otolaryngologist Robert Ruben, think that moms move particular immune-building antibodies to their babies through breast milk. Nevertheless, those antibodies appear to lessen after 6 months.
Keep your baby far from tobacco smoke. Researchers have concluded that kids whose parents smoke are most likely to get ear infections and have hearing issues.
Children living with a cigarette smoker have a 37 percent greater risk of middle ear infections and hearing problems and a 62 percent greater risk if the mom is the family cigarette smoker. Kids are also 86 percent most likely to get surgery for their middle ear problems when their mothers smoke, compared with children who have no smokers in their home.
Even a weekend spent in a house with a smoker can significantly harm a baby and raise his opportunities of getting an ear infection. Tobacco smoke appears to reduce the body immune system, making it harder for your baby to eliminate off infection. Don’t let people smoke in your house, and keep your baby from smoky environments.
Can ear tubes help with repeated ear infections in babies?
Babies who get numerous ear infections– which can actually be one ear infection that sticks around for months in spite of antibiotic treatment– may be great prospects for ear tubes. This procedure is performed on about 670,000 children in the United States each year.
Placing ear tubes is done under basic anesthesia. An otolaryngologist makes a tiny incision in the child’s eardrum and inserts a small tube into the slit. The tube releases pressure and serves as a vent, letting air in and fluid out so bacteria can’t grow.
” It’s an artificial eustachian tube that permits the ear to ‘breathe’ till the real eustachian tube restores its regular function,” explains Ruben.
Your child’s doctor may recommend this surgical solution since a baby with relentless fluid in his ears (or otitis media with effusion) is a prime candidate for repeated ear infections and hearing loss.
Also, although the research is undetermined, some experts recommend that hearing loss resulting from consistent fluid in the ears can lead to delays in language development.
Ruben points out research that found children with relentless ear issues have particular hearing difficulties later in life, especially when paying attention to speech in a loud environment like a class.
In addition, he states, “some of these children– particularly those with developmental hold-ups and those who have specific language hold-ups– are more susceptible to behavioral problems.” The length of time the child suffered hearing loss as well as the level of the disability are essential factors, Ruben states.
The AAP advises tubes for children with a hearing loss of over a certain level, for children with structural damage in the middle ear, and for children with persistent middle ear infections or relentless fluid accumulation.
What should you do? Talk with your doctor and weigh the benefits and drawbacks for you and your baby.
Are ear infections in babies ever serious?
They can be. A severe or unattended infection can burst your child’s eardrum. Ruptures don’t happen extremely typically and usually heal rapidly, however it is necessary to follow up with your child’s doctor to make sure the infection has improved and the eardrum is healing well.
Repeated ear infections can often cause hearing loss and scarring. And in very uncommon cases, neglected ear infections result in mastoiditis (a skull infection behind the ear) or meningitis.
Learn the symptoms of ear infections in babies, what causes them, how to prevent them, when to call the doctor about a baby ear infection.