Ear infections (also called otitis media) are one of the biggest medical problems that small children regularly face, and it’s the job of responsible and loving parents to do their best to prevent them from occurring. Beyond that, parents should at least recognize the common signs of ear infections in children so they can arrange for speedy medical treatment.
Preventative measures and rapid treatment are essential because ear infections can cause significant pain and discomfort in younger children. They can also easily result in hearing problems and other severe effects if not adequately treated.
But what causes ear infections in children, and why are they so common? Also, what can you do to prevent them from occurring, and what are the signs that it’s time to take your little one to the doctor for medical help? Our experts at 123 Baby Box are here to explain!
What are the Typical Signs of Ear Infection in Babies?
There are a wide range of signs and symptoms that indicate a child has developed an ear infection, and responsible parents should always keep a diligent eye out to see if these issues develop. The list below features some of the common indications of ear infections in younger children that parents should know to watch for.
Fluid Draining Out of Their Ears
If a child develops an ear infection, parents will likely notice some white, yellow, brown, or clear fluid seeping from their ears that’s not normal earwax. This specific symptom should never be ignored or brushed off as inconsequential because it could indicate that a child’s eardrum has actually ruptured (broken).
Tugging and Swiping at Their Ears
Just because young babies can’t talk doesn’t mean they don’t have other ways to communicate unhappiness. Crying is a natural form of child communication, but they may also resort to physical gestures to indicate something is wrong. In the case of ear infections, parents may notice their child continually tugging or swiping at their ears for seemingly no reason.
Fever, Difficulty Sleeping, and Irritable Behavior
Babies who develop ear infections are likely to be much more irritable, fussy, and experience a lot of trouble sleeping due to the pain they’re in. They can also develop fevers with temperatures ranging from 100° F to 104° F. Doctors state that approximately 50% of children will develop a fever alongside their ear infection.
One or two of these symptoms don’t automatically mean that a child has developed an ear infection. However, all of the symptoms occurring together make this diagnosis much more likely, especially if they also feature some of the signs below.
Other Signs and Symptoms to Watch Out For
While the above three sections delve into the most common symptoms of ear infections in young children, some other signs that parents should take note of include;
- Trouble hearing (which may present as parents being unable to get their child’s attention)
- A loss of appetite
- A loss of or worsening sense of balance (more apparent in older babies or toddlers)
It’s always important for parents to help promote their child’s learning and development, especially during the earliest years of their life. 123 Baby Box is here to help by providing families with a customized box of fun toys and essentials based on their baby’s age.
The Cause of Ear Infections in Babies
Ear infections in younger children can develop due to various factors, such as viruses and bacteria. Many ear infections occur after children experience a harsh cold, a sore throat, or a respiratory infection. However, according to doctors, three specific reasons appear to serve as the primary driving forces for ear infections in kids. These include;
Smaller Tubes in the Ear
Ears possess a small passageway known as the eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear to the back of the throat. In babies, these tubes are very narrow and horizontal. These factors make it difficult for fluid to properly drain from the ear, causing the tube to become clogged and allowing the trapped fluid to become infected.
A Weakened Immune System
Babies have frail immune systems that aren’t equipped to fight off infections compared to adults, making them more susceptible to thrush and other illnesses.
Inadequate or poor hygiene can also lead to ear infections in babies and toddlers. Because of this, parents need to clean out their children’s ears regularly to prevent clogging. Remember to never insert a Q-tip fully into a child’s ear, and instead gently swipe outside the entrance.
Related: Is White Noise Bad For Babies?
How are Ear Infections in Babies Treated?
Ear infection treatment typically depends on the age of the child. Typically, babies six months and under will almost always receive antibiotics since they aren’t fully vaccinated, and ear infections can lead to more severe issues. For babies between six months and two years old, parents are often told to “wait and see” since many infections will clear up on their own, especially if they’re not severe. If the infection doesn’t go away, they may also receive antibiotics.
Children over two years old are even more likely to get rid of the infection on their own without medical treatment. However, those who experience chronic infections may require antibiotics or even surgical treatment to help mitigate future issues.
To summarize, parents need to keep a consistently close eye out for any signs that their baby or toddler has developed an ear infection, including fluid drainage from the ears, excess fussiness, fevers, trouble sleeping, or tugging and swiping at the ears. Parents who notice these symptoms should make an appointment with their regular pediatrician right away for treatment, which can often include antibiotics- especially for younger babies.
Staying on top of ear infections will help keep your child safe and free from intense ear pain and discomfort while also protecting them from potential hearing damage that can negatively impact them as they grow.
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