Babies usually develop an infection of the ear after an episode of cold. Find out some other factors that can cause ear infections in babies, along with the symptoms and treatment of this condition, in this AptParenting article.
It is not uncommon for babies to get ear infections. Most ear infections are otitis media or middle ear infections. Many babies are found to recover from such infections without taking antibiotics. However, frequent infections can become a major concern for parents.
Babies are more likely to develop ear infections, as their Eustachian tubes are not only shorter than adults, but are also horizontal. As a result, fluid can easily accumulate in the area behind the eardrum. This usually happens after an episode of common cold, sinus infection, or allergy. The trapped fluid in the middle ear provides a favorable breeding ground for germs and bacteria, which can eventually cause an infection.
The most common type of infection is known as acute otitis media (AOM). Babies usually do not have a fully developed immune system, for which they are more likely to get this problem. Sometimes, an infection of the adenoids, which are located near the Eustachian tube can also result in an infection of the ear. It has been observed that children exposed to smoke, especially tobacco smoke, are more likely to develop ear infections frequently.
Signs and Symptoms
It is true that ear infections can be a bit difficult to detect in young children. But with careful observation, you can observe the following signs or symptoms:
- Tugging or pulling at the affected ear
- Fusiness or crying more than usual
- Insomnia or trouble in sleeping
- Clear or slightly yellowish fluid draining from the ear
- Not responding to sounds
- Fever, higher than 100°C
- Reduced appetite
- Flushed cheeks
A minor infection of the middle ear can clear up on its own without requiring any treatment. Physicians usually detect the infection by examining the child’s ear with an otoscope. If the infection is not very severe, then most physicians prefer to wait for a while before prescribing any medications. But, if the infection does not clear up within a day or two, then appropriate medications will be required for its treatment.
Physicians may recommend acetaminophen and ibuprofen to relieve the symptoms like ear pain. However, children should never be given aspirin, as aspirin can increase the risk of developing Reye’s syndrome. Sometimes, ear drops are also prescribed by pediatricians, especially if there is no drainage from the ears.
Antibiotics are usually prescribed only when the infection is severe in nature. Antibiotics are generally given to babies older than 6 months of age. Apart from these, antihistamines and decongestants are occasionally used, especially if the infection is associated with allergies. However, parents should never give any over-the-counter or prescription drugs to their children without consulting a pediatrician.
With a few precautionary measures, parents can significantly lower the risk of ear infections in young children. An infection of the ear can be prevented to a great extent by breastfeeding the child for at least 6 months of age, holding the child in an upright position while feeding, and keeping the baby away from smoke, especially tobacco smoke. It is also important to keep your child away from other sick children, and get him or her vaccinated against certain illnesses like flu and pneumonia.
If your child is getting ear infections frequently, then talk to your pediatrician. Sometimes, ear tubes are recommended by some pediatricians to prevent its recurrences. For inserting an ear tube, a small incision is made in the eardrum, and then the tube is inserted through the opening. The tube basically helps drain the fluid and relieve the pressure inside the ear. This surgical procedure is however, carried out only when a physician feels that recurrent infections may cause loss of hearing and other complications.
Disclaimer: This AptParenting article is for informative purposes only, and should not be replaced for the advice of a medical professional.