Ear infections are one of the most commonly diagnosed illnesses in children along with common colds and oral thrush. About half of babies have at least one ear infection by the time they turn 1 year old, and most have had at least one ear infection by their third birthday.
An ear infection can be caused by bacteria or a virus. It happens when fluid builds up in the area behind your baby's eardrum and then becomes infected.
Let's venture inside the middle ear to see how germs and tiny ears make such frequent contact. Normally any fluid that enters this area leaves pretty quickly through the eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear to the back of the nose and throat. But if the eustachian tube is blocked – as often happens during colds, sinus infections, even allergies – the fluid gets trapped in the middle ear. Anatomy is a contributing factor as well. 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. In addition, a child's immune system is still developing, so she has a tougher time than an adult in fighting off viruses and bacteria.
Germs like to grow in dark, warm, wet places, so a fluid-filled middle ear is the perfect breeding ground. As the infection gets worse, the inflammation in and behind the eardrum also tends to worsen, making the condition more painful.
The common symptoms of an ear infection include:
- Your baby pulls, grabs, or tugs at his ears. This could be a sign he's in pain. (Babies do pull on their ears for all kinds of reasons or for no reason at all. So if your baby seems otherwise fine, he probably doesn't have an ear infection.)
- Diarrhea or vomiting. The bug that causes the ear infection can also affect the gastrointestinal tract.
- Reduced appetite. Ear infections can cause gastrointestinal upset. They can also make it painful for your baby to swallow and chew. You may notice your baby pull away from the breast or bottle after he takes the first few sips.
- Yellow or whitish fluid draining from the ear. This doesn't happen to most babies, but it's a sure sign of infection. It also signals that a small hole has developed in the eardrum. (Don't worry – this will heal once the infection is treated.)
- Unpleasant smell. You may detect a foul odor coming from your child's ear.
- Difficulty sleeping. Lying down can make an ear infection more painful.
Your child's hearing depends on the proper vibration of the eardrum and the structures of the middle. Repeated infections can damage the eardrum, while repeated fluid accumulation dampens the vibrations, both of which interfere with hearing. That's why it's imperative to take ear infections seriously, especially when your baby is learning to talk. Periodic hearing loss can lead to speech delays or even language problems that can affect her school performance later.
Using a pacifier may increase the risk of middle ear infections in babies and young children. In one study, the incidence of ear infections was 33 percent lower in babies who didn't use pacifiers.
Please let us know your thoughts and experiences about baby’s ear infection by commenting below. We would be happy to hear from you!
How to Tell If It's an Ear Infection
Ear infections. http://www.babycentre.co.uk/a83/ear-infections
Must-Read Guide to Babies and Ear Infections