Baby Ear Infection – What Should You Do?

As a parent, it can be concerning to discover your baby has a problem with their ears such as an ear infection. Fortunately there are a number of things you can do if you suspect a baby ear infection and we’ll explore these in the following article.

Ear infections are actually far more common in babies and young children than they are in adults and are one of the most common childhood illness. A high percentage of babies will have an ear infection before they are three years old.


 
Babies and young children are more susceptible to ear infection because the tube that connects the inner or middle ear to the back of the throat (Eustachian tube) is very short and narrower in diameter compared to those in adults making it difficult for ear fluid to drain properly. Anything that prevents adequate drainage of fluid in the ears increases the risk of bacterial growth which can lead to an ear infection. This tube lengthens and becomes more upright as the child grows up allowing any fluid to drain more easily, reducing the risk of developing an infection.

Symptoms Of An Ear Infection

How Can You Tell If Your Baby Has An Ear Infection?

As a baby or very young child cannot tell you they have sore ears you have to be extra vigilant and observe closely for signs of a baby ear infection.  The baby may cry more and be difficult to soothe and if a fever develops this might be a clue that there is a possible ear infection. You should also be aware that an ear infection can develop after the baby has had a cold.

If the above signs are presents, the following may help to clarify that it is actually an infection present rather than any other illness or infection:

  • The baby may pull or rub the ear.
  • There may be some ear inflammation or a  discharge seen in and around the ear.
  • There may be a nasty or unusual smell coming from the ear.
  • The baby might not be sleeping due to pain in the ear

You may also notice:

  • The baby may vomit or have diarrhoea if the stomach is also be affected. In this instance there may also be a reduced appetite.
  • It may be noticed that the baby is having trouble chewing and swallowing.

Causes Of A Baby Ear Infection

Having a cold (that can lead to ear congestion) or a chest infection might be the cause the infection in the ear when the mucus becomes infected and this may be viral or bacterial in origin. It has been shown that using a pacifier or dummy seems to increase the possibility of ear infections in babies and young children. A rupture of the ear drum has also been cited as possible causes.

Treatment For A Baby Ear Infection

When you notice symptoms of an ear infection and this is causing pain and suffering to the baby you should make an appointment to see your doctor. Although sometimes the infection will clear up without medication the doctor may prescribe antibiotics or suggest natural ear infection remedies.

The infection should clear up with three to four days with the antibiotics but if not you should make another appointment to see the doctor, especially if the symptoms become worse and a fever or discharge from the ear develops. Sometimes babies and young children will have recurring ear infection.  When this happens the doctor could recommend a longer course of antibiotics which will hopefully stop the recurrence. In some cases of baby ear infection it may be necessary to consult a specialist who may require to place a grommet (a tiny plastic tube) into the ear to allow the fluid to drain from the inner ear. Even if the doctor confirms that the problem does not require a course of medication having the baby seen by the doctor will reduce your worries.

Prevention

It is very common for babies and young children to have an ear infection and in many cases nothing can be done to stop this happening.  However it has been shown that some in some circumstances the following may lower the risk of infection:

  • When the baby is breastfed.
  • When the baby lives in a smoke free environment.
  • When the baby does not use a pacifier or dummy. However do not stop this if it is needed to help the baby to sleep.
  • If using a pacifier, to not cover it is sugar or similar sweet substance.
  • If the baby needs a pacifier, clean and replace this frequently.

Complications

If the baby is normally healthy the risk of an ear infection becoming something more serious is very rare indeed. However, you should see a doctor if the baby ear infection does not improve within two or three days and there is no ear pain relief, if the baby is showing symptoms that are causing you to worry for their health or if the baby seems to have any hearing loss after the infection has cleared up. Be extra attentive and cautious when a baby or small child is involved and ensure you do not delay in taking action.