Tired of all of those ear infections?
As a parent and child, you're not alone.
With cold and flu season blowing through the crisp, autumn air, the exposure to germs in daycare or school while your child's immune system develops causes many sniffles and sneezes. According to the National Institutes of Health, ear infections are the most common reason parents bring their child to a doctor – and 5 out of 6 children will have at least one ear infection by their third birthday. It’s "ear-ritatingly" common! But, are you finding your child visiting the pediatrician a little too often for chronic ear infections?
What Causes Ear Infections?
Most ear infections in children occur because of their developing immune systems and unique anatomy of the inner ear. The Eustachian tubes are smaller and more level in children than adults, sometimes causing poor drainage. If the Eustachian tubes become blocked with mucus during a cold or sinus infection, fluid may not drain properly.
Can You Prevent An Ear Infection?
Bacteria often are the cause of ear infections, and the best way to prevent ear infections is to reduce the spread of bacteria and other risk factors.
There are ways to take action and lessen your risk of recurring ear infections:
- Wash hands frequently.
- Get a flu shot.
- Avoid exposing your child to secondhand smoke.
- Never put your child down for a nap with a bottle.
However, despite taking some precaution, chronic ear infections may be unavoidable. Babies and toddlers are generally not able to vocalize ear pain, resulting in prolonged exposure to infection. Some ear infections do not produce a fever. Any lengthy exposure to infection of the ear could perforate the eardrum, or cause mild to moderate hearing loss.
What Are The Signs Of An Ear Infection?
So, what's the best bet to ensure your infant or young child doesn't struggle? Look for these signs of an ear infection:
- Drainage from the ear
- Recurrent fevers
- Ear pulling
- Persistent runny nose
- Ringing in the ear
- Ear pain or pressure
- Speech delay (due to hearing loss)
Checking in with an ENT (ear, nose, and throat doctor) and audiologist for an ear and hearing evaluation can help preserve hearing in your child and lessen the number of visits you take the pediatrician. With many children benefiting from either medical management (antibiotics or routine ear care) or occasionally, surgical placement of ear tubes to ensure better drainage, parents can start to worry a little less when those pesky sniffles and sneezes come around again.
We hope your ears are a little less ear-ritating this fall and winter.
By Lindsey Elderkin
Franciscan Health Copywriter