Ear infection is a very common childhood ailment that most of us have suffered at some point or the other. You may just ignore the baby slightly tugging her ears followed by crankiness and unusual cries. At times, it is the sign of an infection pain irritating the baby; however not always does that denote ear ailment… may be your baby just discovered a pair of ears or she is teething probably.
So how would you know if your little one’s got an ear infection, the most common ailment in babies after the common cold?
It is a fact that 80 percent of babies suffer from ear infection, probably 2 – 3 times by the time they are three years. Most time ear is infected between the age 6 and 24 months. So, there’s nothing to get anxious if your toddler is diagnosed with an infected ear.
Why Are Babies Prone to Ear Infections?
Ear infection happens when fluid builds up in the middle ear, a space behind the eardrum that is filled with air. The trapped water when infected by virus or bacteria causes terrible pain. So now you might wonder how the water builds up in the middle ear. Well, it so happens when the Eustachian tube is blocked because of swelling or congestion from cold. Eustachian tube is a narrow passageway that connects your throat to the middle ear.
Sometimes Eustachian tube could be blocked due to allergic inflammation.
So in babies, the Eustachian tube is shorter, floppier and less angled than us adults. Also, the Eustachian tube is horizontal in babies, whereas as we grow old, it triples in size and becomes vertical. Normally fluid that enters the middle area drains through the vertical tube. However, the underdeveloped Eustachian tube triggers germs and water toget accumulated in the middle ear. Furthermore, a child’s immune system is not strongly developed; so even a small miscalculation or germ attack rapidly causes infection.
What Happens When the Baby’s Ear is Infected?
Germs usually like to grow in dark, damp and warm places; the middle ear proves to be the perfect picnic spot for the germs. The inflammation tends to worsen as the infection spreads making the experience very painful. Your baby will also run a temperature because of the pain and infection.
Ear infection is medically known as Acute Otitis Media (AOM) that shows symptoms like inflamed middle ear, pain, accumulation of fluid, fever and red eardrum.
“In one study, it was found that pacifiers could significantly increase ear infection in babies and children by 33 percent”
Know the Symptoms
Symptoms of ear infection in babies are clear and you should call the doctor as soon as you see the first signs.
- When your baby tugs or pulls her ears – Although this is not a profound ear infection symptom, but if it’s followed by other signs, then you sure need to check with the doc.
- Loose motion or vomiting– This happens because ear infections can also affect our gastrointestinal tract.
- Low appetite – Since the infection also affects the gastrointestinal tract, babies find it painful to swallow and chew food. You may notice your baby pulling away from the bottle or breast after she takes few sips.
- White or yellow colour fluid coming out from the ear – Although it is rare in babies, it is a sure sign of infection. The infection may develop a hole in the eardrum from where the fluid comes out. There’s nothing to worry because the eardrum will heal once the infection is treated.
- Foul smell – You may smell unpleasant odor coming from your baby’s ears.
- Baby is not sleeping – Ear infection can be more painful when the baby lies down.
Treatment for Ear Infection in Babies
The doctor will look into the ear with an instrument called Otoscope. If the ear drum is red, bulging and probably leaking, then it’s is infected.
The doctor would release a puff of air inside the ear through a device to check whether the ear drums move. If it doesn’t move, it is an indication of infected ear.
Although most ear infection cures on their own, in case of serious infection the baby would be treated with antibiotic course. However, too many antibiotics to an infant may cause her to become vulnerable to antibiotic resistant.
That’s why most doctors suggest that we give babies (above 6 months) dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve the pain and inflammation until the infection goes away.
Don’t ever give your baby aspirin because it may heighten the risk of a potential disorder, Reye’s Syndrome.