Ear infections (which may be viral or bacterial) are the second most commonly diagnosed illness in children in the United States (after the common cold). Babies and young children are more prone to ear infections because they have short (about 1/2 inch), horizontal eustachian tubes.
A childhood ear infection (also known as acute otitis media) happens when fluid builds up in the area behind the eardrum and then becomes infected. According to What To Expect, This is usually brought on by a cold or other upper-respiratory infection. In addition, this may lead to diarrhea, vomiting, as well as a decrease in appetite. Earaches can also disrupt your little love’s sleeping patterns.
What are the symptoms?
While an earache is often the first noticeable symptom, here are some other signs you should look out for:
- Tugging or pulling at his or her ear
- Yellow or whitish fluid draining your child’s ear
- Crankiness and irritability
- Diarrhea or vomitting
- Irritation when lying down, chewing or sucking
- Decreased appetite
- Unpleasant smell coming from your child’s ear
- Difficulty with balance, dizziness
- Trouble hearing sounds
- Crust in and around the ear
How can you treat it
If you suspect an ear infection, the best way to treat it is to have a pediatrician examine your child’s ear right away. The doctor will consider your child’s age and symptoms and decide what’s best.
To help reduce the pain at home, try applying heat (i.e.a covered hot-water bottle filled with warm water) or cold (i.e. an ice pack wrapped in a wet wash cloth) to the outer ear. On top of that, you can also offer appropriate pain relievers (i.e ear drops, pain killers) to your child.
Note: If your baby has been diagnosed with an ear infection and symptoms don’t improve after three to four days, you should return to the doctor.
How to prevent childhood ear infections
While many ear infections can’t be prevented (especially if it runs in the family), there are a few steps you can take to lessen the risk.
- Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke, which can make ear infections more severe and more frequent.
- Make sure your child’s immunizations are up-to-date, including flu shots (for 6 months and older) and pneumococcal vaccines.
- Reduce the spread of germ by washing your hands often – and always after using the toilet, changing diapers, and before eating or preparing food.
- Breastfeed your baby for six to 12 months if possible.