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Baby ear infection

Some change of baby’s mood and excessive unusual crying, will give an indication that the baby is with some problem. Ear infection normally strikes after common cold or sinus infection followed by fever.

Signs of ear infection in baby

Following symptoms can also be noticed during baby ear infection:

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  • While in pain, she/he pulls, grabs or tugs at his/her ears.
  • Baby ear infection makes chewing and swallowing difficult. Hence the baby pulls away from the breast or from the bottle after few sips.
  • The bug that infects the ear, can also affect gastrointestinal tract, and result in diarrhea or vomiting.
  • A foul odor may emit from the ear.
  • The draining of yellowish or whitish fluid from the ear is a sure sign of baby ear infection, and may also indicate that a small hole has formed in the eardrum. Such holes get cured once the infection is treated and should not be a cause of undue worry.
  • The baby may face several problems while sleeping, particularly while lying down.

After the common cold, ear infection is the second most common illness in babies in the USA. At the age of 1, almost half of the children in US have, one ear infected, and 3/4th of children in US have one ear infection, before the age of 3 years.

Causes of baby ear infection

  • Baby ear infection may be caused by virus or bacteria. Infection takes place when fluid builds up behind the eardrums and gets infected.
  • Any fluid that enters the ears generally tends to leave through the Eustachian tubes, which are located at the back of the throat and nose. However, the tubes get blocked during colds, sinus infections and allergic periods causing the fluid to become trapped in the middle of the ear. This makes the area a breeding ground for germs. When infection increases, it causes increased inflammation of the eardrum and the areas around it, resulting in aggravation of the pain.
  • When the body immune system attempts to fight the infection, inflammation of the eardrum and fever occurs, which is called as acute otitis media (AOM).
  • Babies are prone to get infection because their Eustachian tubes are short by ½ inch and are horizontal, which triple in length and become more vertical in adulthood facilitating easy drainage of fluids

Getting medical attention for baby ear infection

The child should be taken to a doctor at the first symptoms of infection. The pediatrician may examine the eardrum with the help of a device called pneumatic otoscope to confirm the presence of infection and collection of fluid.

Treatment of baby ear infection

  • Infected children younger than 2 years are given antibiotics. In addition the doctor may prescribe acetaminophen or ibuprofen for children of 6 months and above for relieving pain and infection. Prevent aspirin as it results in rare Reye’s syndrome, which may be fatal.
  • Make sure that the entire prescription of antibiotics is given to the baby and follow the instructions of the doctor and go for recheck if the condition persists. Go for re-examination after a few weeks.

Prevention of baby ear infection

  • Baby ear infection is not contagious, but it usually follows and accompanies infection of the airways which are contagious.
  • To reduce the infection, wash the hands of baby and yours after using the toilet, changing the diapers and before preparing or consuming the food.
  • The baby should be breast fed for a minimum period of 6 months. A study by FDA of US has revealed that breastfeeding of babies at least for 6 months reduces the risk of baby ear infection by 70%. Medical center in New York has reported that the mothers transfer certain immune building antibodies to their babies by breast milk. However the antibodies seem to diminish after 6 months.
  • Vaccination of the baby should be current and up to date. Immunizations like Hib vaccine, pneumococcal and flu vaccine can help to prevent the illnesses and reduce ear infections. The minimum age for having flu vaccine should be not be less than 6 months.
  • Keep babies away from tobacco smoke. Researchers have concluded that kids who have smoking parents are prone to ear infection and have hearing problems. 62% risk of baby ear infection cases are from where the mom is a smoker, and 86% cases of kids who receive surgery for middle ear problems are from the smoking mother households. Keep the baby away from the smoking atmosphere, because the tobacco smoke reduces baby’s immune system’s capacity to fight the infection.

Can ear tubes help prevent repeated baby ear infection?

If the ear infection lingers for months, despite antibiotic treatment, insertion ear tubes is recommended. Under this procedure, the otolaryngologist makes a small incision in baby’s eardrum and a Eustachian-like tube is inserted into the slit, which allows the air to get in and the fluid out.

Experts believe that the presence of persistent fluid and hearing loss lead to delays in language development and behavioral problems.

Can the baby ear infection result in serious complication?

Yes, an untreated baby ear infection can rupture the child’s eardrum and cause hearing impairment. In rare cases, untreated ear infections can result in meningitis or infection of the skull region present behind the ears.

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