As a new parent, it is very common to worry about your child. One of the most commonly asked questions of parents, when an infant is sick is, “Does my baby have an ear infection?” It is very difficult to determine whether or not your newborn or infant has an ear infection because they can not tell you verbally. Below is a list of symptoms that may be apparent if your infant is suffering from an ear infection.
Symptoms of ear infections in infants and children
Symptoms of ear infections in infants and children may include some or all of the characteristics outlined below:
Pulling or tugging at one or both ears.
Ok, so we have all been there when we have had pain. What are some of the things you do when you experience pain? Hold on to the area? Apply pressure to the area? Pull-on the area to redistribute the pain? Exactly! We have all been there! Your baby is no different. When your baby is Pulling or tugging on their ears, it is a reaction or instinct to help the pain. It also lets us know as parents, something is wrong.
Fussiness or excessive crying
Let’s face it. Ear infections are painful! This is an infant’s way of telling mom or dad, “my ear hurts!” If your infant is crying uncontrollably, hysterically, or with very high pitched screeching, it can be a sign of an ear infection.
Fevers generally indicate an infection is looming somewhere in the body. If your infant is feverish and exhibiting any of the other symptoms listed in this blog, it is safe to say they may have an ear infection, especially if your infant is pulling or tugging on their ears. Once a fever appears, it is very important to get in touch with your pediatrician as soon as possible.
Like with the fussiness and crying, trouble sleeping is a common symptom for infant ear infections. Ear infections cause a lot of pain and discomfort, which interrupt a comfortable night’s sleep.
Delayed responsiveness to sounds or quiet noises
Ear infections cause swelling in the middle ear. As the middle ear swells, the bones in the middle ear do not work as effectively due to limitations on movement. When these bones can not move, they can not transfer sound into the inner ear. In turn, this causes a reduced ability to hear. In turn, they are causing delayed responses or no responses at all to sounds.
Fluid draining from the ear
In severe cases of ear infections, you may see drainage from your infant’s ear. Typically the fluid is cloudy, yellow, or opaque in color. You may notice a rotten odor. This smell is typically a good indicator of bacteria build up in the fluid. When the fluid dries around the ear canal or on the skin, it may dry yellow. Simply wet a cloth with warm water, ringing out the excess water, and gently wipe the area clean. Be sure to keep the ear canal dry.
Reducing the risk of ear infections
Have no fear; there are ways to reduce your child’s risk of getting ear infections.
Breastfeeding helps to build up antibodies in your infant’s system, increasing a healthy immune system response. Moreover, breastfeeding provided nutrients not found in formula. It is also shown that babies who are breastfed are less likely to experience ear infections than bottle-fed babies.
The reason being, bottle-fed babies, often take a bottle in more of a laying down position, while breastfed babies are held on more of an inclined position. When taking a bottle lying down, the is more risk for milk to flow into the middle ear, cause in the fluid build-up. This, in turn, results in an ear infection.
Eliminate smoking around your infants and children
Smoking around your infant and second-hand smoke can cause allergens to affect your infant’s immune system and ears. According to the Cleveland clinic, children around second-hand smoke are 2-3 times more likely to experience chronic or reoccurring ear infections.
Allergens tie into smoking and second-hand smoke. Smoke is a leading cause of triggering allergies. Mucus is a natural reaction to expel allergens from the body. As an example, nasal drainage occurs; an infant cannot blow their nose. As mucus builds up and settles in the middle ear, bacteria grow, causing an infection.
Prevention of common colds
Common colds are the leading cause of infant ear infections. Bacteria travels and settles into the middle ear, causing swelling and fluid build-up. Keeping up on baby hygiene will reduce the occurrence of a cold. Also, if your baby attends daycare and they are sick with a fever, please keep them home.
Sending them to daycare sick will just increase the likelihood of circulating the illness throughout the daycare. This just circulated the cold over and over again, suppressing immune systems and increasing the risk for other illnesses, including ear infections.
Take sick days
When your child is ill, stay home with them, and tend to their needs. This will make them more comfortable knowing they are being tended to by mom or dad. Think about it. We all just want mom when we are sick. Bring home with your infant, and taking the time to provide the care they need will help them heal faster and improve their immunity overall.
How to cure an ear infection:
While preventative actions are important to know, you will be lucky to escape your infant’s childhood without an ear infection. If you experience the occasional ear infection, there is comfort in knowing it can be cured. Common cures include the following outlined below.
If you suspect your infant has an ear infection, you should see your pediatrician immediately. Your pediatrician can accurately diagnose the infection and prescribe the necessary treatment. Most ear infections are cured with a round of antibiotics such as amoxicillin.
In extreme cases of reoccurring ear infections, your pediatrician or an Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor may assess the infection and determine tubes are needed. Tubes are surgically placed into the middle ear, creating an opening, allowing for proper fluid drainage. Tubes reduce the occurrence of infection and fall out on their own.
To assist with the recovery process, it is recommended to place a warm compress on your infant’s ear. This reduces swelling and pain.
Infant and Children’s Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and Ibuprofen can be given to infants over six months of age. When given in moderation, these measures will reduce the pain, providing your child some relief, allowing rest and hopefully sleep. Before giving any pain reliever to your infant or child, you should check with your child’s pediatrician first. Please note children under the age of 19 years old should not be given Asprin due to the risk of Reyes syndrome and liver damage.
Drinking plenty of fluids
When your infant is ill or running a fever, generally, it is best practice to ensure proper hydration. In the case of ear infections, drinking plenty of fluids is important because swallowing helps to open and close the Eustachian tube allowing the fluid to drain from the middle ear.
In conclusion, it is important to recognize the symptoms of ear infections in infants and children because they are not always able to tell you their ear hurts. It is important to understand children’s immune systems are not as advanced as adults, and their eustachian tubes are smaller and lay almost flat versus an elongated eustachian tube.
As a child gets older, the Eustachian tube becomes more elongated, allowing fluid to drain properly from the middle ear.
Hopefully, outlining symptoms, preventative measures, and treatments above will assist you as a parent with reducing the amount of pain and recovery time for your child. Recognizing symptoms early, proper assessments, and effective treatment by your pediatrician eliminate further damage to your child’s ear and hearing.