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Ear Infections: Most parents have been there ... done that

Ear infections are easily the most common illnesses in babies and young children. We've all been there. You can usually tell when your baby or toddler has an ear infection because they are:
  • Tugging at an ear (or both ears).
  • Crying more than usual.
  • Having ear drainage.
  • Having trouble sleeping.
  • Showing hearing difficulties.

In many cases, ear infections go away on their own, but your doctor or health care provider may recommend pain relievers. Severe infections and infections in young babies may require antibiotics. Children who get frequent infections may need surgery to place small tubes inside their ears. The tubes relieve pressure in the ears so that the child can hear again.

Ear infections are a common childhood problem with two out of three children under the age of 3 experiencing at least one case. Typically, when a child reaches school age, ear infections are no longer a problem.

If a child complains of ear pain and pressure that lasts for more than a day or is accompanied by fever it is a good idea to consult a doctor. See a doctor as soon as possible if the ear drains pus or blood. This is a possible sign the eardrum has ruptured. Many untreated ear infections clear up without medical treatment. However, long-lasting or recurrent infections can cause damage to the ear and cause permanent hearing loss.

Risk Factors

All children are susceptible to ear infections, but some are more likely than others to get them. Children at higher risk include:
  • Children between the ages of six months and 2 years.
  • Children who attend day care.
  • Babies who drink from a bottle.
  • Children from families with a history of asthma and allergies.
  • Children exposed to secondhand smoke or high levels of air pollution.
  • Children of American Indian and Eskimo descent.

Sources: MayoClinic.com and MedlinePlus

October 2011