Most kids are going to get an ear infection at least once in their life, and others will get reoccurring ear infections, and guess what? There is nothing you can do about it! As a mom, all you want to do is keep your child safe and discomfort free, and his ear infections hurt you just as much as they do him, so are ear infections preventable? There are no guarantees, but you can take these steps to lower your child’s odds of ending up in the doctor’s office.
- Studies show that six months of exclusive breastfeeding can protect a child.
- Don’t smoke, and steer clear of secondhand smoke. Cigarette smoke paralyzes the tiny hairs that line the Eustachian tubes, and when this happens mucus can’t move out of the middle-ear space, which raises the risk for an infection.
- Avoid large daycare settings if possible. Children in daycare tend to get more ear infections than those who aren’t enrolled. If daycare’s a must, choose somewhere with a small amount of children attending.
- Don’t let your child drink from a bottle or sippy cup while she’s lying flat.
- Take precautions against allergies. If you think allergies could be causing your child’s ear infections, try to remove as many allergens from the home as possible. For example, keep pets out of your child’s sleeping area, and keep the rooms where she spends the most time as free of dust as possible.
HOW COMMON ARE EAR INFECTIONS?
Next to the common cold, ear infections are the most common disorder in children. The painful facts are that more than 80 percent of children will be diagnosed with an ear infection by the time they turn 3 years old, almost half of these kids will have at least 3 ear infections by age 3, and the prime time for ear infections is between 6 and 24 months. With those statistics, it’s easy to worry if your child has an ear infection every time they are crying or pulling their ears.
WHY DO KIDS GET EAR INFECTIONS?
The quick answer is that ear infections occur when fluid gets trapped in the middle ear and becomes infected by bacteria or a virus. Another reason is that the Eustachian tube (a narrow passageway that connects the throat to the middle ear) becomes blocked. Most often this blockage is caused by swelling or congestion from a cold, which is why an ear infection often accompanies a cold. Allergies can also cause inflammation that obstructs the Eustachian tubes.
Another factor is a child’s anatomy. A child’s Eustachian tubes are shorter, less angled, and floppier than an adult’s, which means that both fluid and germs are more likely to get trapped in the middle ear. Finally, your child’s immune system is still developing, so they have a tougher time than an adult in fighting off viruses and bacteria.
HOW TO TELL IF IT’S AN EAR INFECTION
An older child can usually tell you if their hurts, but Infants and toddlers do not have the language skills to tell you that something wrong, so what should you look for? Here is a list of tale-tale signs to look for:
- Ear pain (mild to severe). Babies often pull or tug at their ears when they have an earache.
- Drainage from the ear that is thick and yellow or bloody. This means the eardrum has probably burst (ruptured). …
- Loss of appetite, vomiting, and grumpy behavior.
- Trouble sleeping
DOES MY CHILD NEED ANTIBIOTICS?
Antibiotics are very often used to treat ear infections, but now research shows that doctors shouldn’t just whip out their prescription pads for every child. In some cases, a watch-and-wait approach may be appropriate because one-third of ear infections are caused by viruses, which don’t respond to antibiotics, and some of the infections will improve on their own. Doctors almost always prescribe antibiotics to babies and toddlers who have an ear infection.
Whether or not your child ultimately takes antibiotics, his pediatrician will schedule a follow-up visit several weeks later to ensure that the infection is gone. In most cases, the ear infection will be history and your child will be none the worse for the wear. However, for children with recurring ear infections, your doctor might recommend seeing a specialist, to discuss the need for placing ventilation tubes in your child’s ears to prevent fluid from accumulating. In some children, fluid can remain in the middle ear long after an infection is gone. This fluid not only sets a child up for another ear infection, but it can also cause continued hearing loss that may interfere with language development. If the child has had 5-6 ear infections in a year, tubes are the next step.
HOW CAN I EASE MY CHILDS PAIN?
Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can ease the pain, and avoid using ear drops because they can cause permanent damage if your child’s eardrum is perforated.