Could Your Child Have an Ear Infection?
Learn how to spot one and what to do next.
Even newbie parents can spot diaper rash or a runny nose without any issue, but ear infections might have only a whisper of symptoms. Yet three-quarters of children will get one by age 3.
” An ear infection occurs when you get infected fluid or pus behind the eardrum,” states Jennifer Shu, MD, FAAP. She is a pediatrician in Atlanta and editor of American Academy of Pediatrics Baby & Child Health. The most common cause? Colds. When secretions get trapped in the middle ear, viruses or bacteria can cause an infection and result in a bulging or reddened eardrum.
Children under 3 are most vulnerable to ear infections, Shu states. “They do not have strong body immune systems. They have not been exposed to a lot of these bacteria before, so it takes them a little bit longer to combat them off.” Young kids likewise have more horizontal Eustachian tubes (channels that connect the middle ear to the throat), enabling fluid to gather instead of drain.
Fever may have an ear infection, but not always, Shu states. Parents may spot other symptoms, such as earaches, ear drain, trouble hearing or sleeping, ear yanking, poor cravings, vomiting, and diarrhea. But “for many children, it’s simply fussiness, weeping more than typical, being clingy,” Shu says.
If your child seems ill or has a fever, see a pediatrician. Babies under 6 months usually require antibiotics, Shu states, to avoid the spread of infection to other parts of the body. From 6 months to 2 years, the AAP advises considering observation without antibiotics, as long as the child isn’t seriously ill. However at this age, if the diagnosis of ear infection is particular, it’s normally best to treat with antibiotics. If your child is 2 or older, do not be surprised if the doctor suggests holding back on antibiotics.
” We attempt not to treat if it’s a very moderate infection or if they’re not complaining that much,” Shu says. According to the AAP, parents may choose to wait 48 to 72 hours and then start their child on antibiotics if there’s no enhancement.
Preventing Ear Infections
Shu offers these tips to help avoid childhood ear infections.
Breastfeed your baby for the first year. Breast milk contains antibodies and might cut risk of ear infections. If you bottle feed, keep your baby sitting up. Milk flows quicker into the middle ear if a child sucks on a bottle lying down.
Do your best to prevent colds. Clean your child’s hands typically. If you can, limit her time in group care or select a setting with fewer children.
Keep your child’s allergic reactions in check. When mucus from allergies obstructs the Eustachian tube, the possibility of getting an ear infection increases.
Don’t smoke. According to some research studies, children who are exposed to pre-owned smoke are two to three times most likely to obtain ear infections compared with other kids.
Vaccinate: Ask your pediatrician about pneumococcal, flu, and meningitis vaccines. Research shows that immunized children have fewer ear infections.