Middle ear infection is one of the most common illnesses among children. Around 95% of all children have otitis media or middle ear infection, at least once by time they reach 7 years old. Although it is common for children from ages 4 months to 4 years, children from ages 6 months to 18 months are most susceptible. Children who are cared for in a group are also likely to get colds and ear infections as compared to those who stay at home. This is because they are exposed to more viruses that can cause colds, which may only complicate an ear infection.
Ear infections usually begin with a viral infection. This causes the middle ear lining to be swollen and fluid then builds up behind the eardrum. Children are most susceptible because their eustachian tubes are narrower and shorter, as compared to those of adults. Babies who use the bottle while lying down are more prone to having ear infections than those who are held upright during feedings. Ear infections commonly occur during the fall and winter months, and seasonal allergies may also increase the risk of occurrence. The risk of ear infection is also higher in children who are exposed to tobacco smoke and high levels of pollution.
It may be difficult to detect ear infections among children especially if they are still too young to talk. It is then best to watch out for typical signs that children with ear infections may manifest. Aside from ear pain and headache, children with ear infections are unusually irritable and they cry more than usual. They also tend to pull at their ears and may fail to respond to sounds. It can also cause fever that may be higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. A child may also have a clear fluid that drains from the ears.
Although ear infections do not usually lead to emergencies, it can be very uncomfortable for your child. In order to spare your child from sleepless nights and too much discomfort, it is essential to prevent its occurrence. Breastfeeding your baby for the first six months will provide your child with needed antibodies to fight off infection. If you choose to bottle-feed your baby, hold the baby in an upright position during feedings. Completing the recommended vaccinations for your child is also very important. Pneumococcal vaccine does not only prevent life-threatening infections like pneumonia and meningitis, it also reduces the risk of ear infections. If it is possible, limit the time that your child spends in a group care setting. You can also choose group care settings with fewer children to minimize exposure to viruses. It is also best to protect the child from second hand smoke because it may only increase the risk of infection.
If you suspect that your child may have an ear infection, consult your doctor. Your child needs to be checked so that the doctor can properly treat the infection and avoid the complications.