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Baby Ear Infection – Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Prevention

Written by Dr.Mary

Ear infections in children and infants are among the most disturbing illnesses due to their frequency of occurrence. These infections lead to irritability hence may affect baby growth if treatment is not sought immediately.

Baby Ear Infection Symptoms

  • Cold symptoms : More often than not, ear infections are preceded by a cold. This is characterized by a clear runny nose that often turns yellow or green before the setting in of an infection.
  • Frequent ear pain or hearing loss complaints
  • Frequent night waking
  • Tugging or pulling at one or both ears
  • The child may show unwillingness to lie flat
  • Low grade fever or it may be absent
  • Increased fussiness during cold
  • Loss of balance
  • Being unresponsive to quiet sounds
  • Showing signs of hearing difficulty
  • Drainage of the ear for instance if pus or blood drains out of the ear indicates an infection with a ruptured eardrum if you see blood or pus draining out of the ear, then it is probably an infection with a ruptured eardrum.

Baby Ear Infection Causes

Immature Eustachian tube: The Eustachian tube is much shorter and angled in infants and young children hence increasing the risk of bacterial infection from the nose and throat into the middle ear region. The tube becomes vertical as the child grows hence outgrowing ear infections.

Colds are also implicated in ear infections in children. For instance when a child develops a cold, the nasal passages swell resulting in mucus collection at the back of the nose. This offers a conducive breeding ground for the microorganisms inhabiting the nose and throat region to overgrow.

Invasion by bacteria due to migration up through the Eustachian tube and into the middle ear space where they multiply within the stuck mucus resulting in formation of pus and thick mucus.

Pus causes bulging of the eardrum causing pain. This is usually characterized by a red, bulging pus-colored eardrum.

The discharge that collects in the middle presses on the eardrum hindering its normal vibration resulting in diminished hearing. The fluid may plug the Eustachian tube and hence dampening the sound.

Baby Ear Infection Treatment

Bacteria that reside in the ear resulting in infection are not contagious. However, the cold virus that can lead to an ear infection is highly contagious. More often than not, development of the ear infection a week after the cold begins does not result in a contagious child. Factors such as loss of hearing ability and speech delay may warrant more aggressive treatment in children and infants. However, three forms of medical prevention exist:


Prophylactic Antibiotics

This consists of a daily dose of amoxicillin or similar antibiotic. This treatment should start at the first sign of any cold symptoms, and should be done continuously for 7 – 10 days. This is advantageous in that full dose courses of stronger antibiotics is avoided though it may contribute to antibiotic resistance.

Pain relievers

Pain relievers such as Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen are also effective


Four doses of Prevnar is usually administered during the first two years of life. However, a single dose is enough for children 15 months and older. This vaccine helps prevent pneumococcal bacterial infection responsible for causing pneumonia, infections of the blood, meningitis and ear infections.

Use of ear tubes

These are tiny tubes that are inserted into the eardrum under general anesthesia only by an ENT specialist. These tubes usually stay in place for 6-12 months and they are effective in:

  • Draining chronic ear fluid that may turn sticky.
  • Providing an outlet for middle ear fluid to drain out as it begins to collect during a cold. hence preventing a full ear infection from occurring.
  • Preserving hearing and timely speech development by avoiding prolonged muffled hearing as a result of the middle ear fluid.
  • Preventing chronic hearing loss caused by recurrent ear infections although it is a rare complication.

Baby Ear Infection Prevention

Several ways to prevent lessen the frequency and severity of ear infections include:

  • Continuous exposure to other children in daycare settings due to crowding increases the risk of a child to catching more colds, and consequently more ear infections. Crowded daycare settings are a set up for germ sharing.
  • In case allergies are suspected to contribute to a child’s runny nose and consequently, ear infections proper control measures should be observed.
  • Feeding the baby upright lowers the risk of ear infections since lying down while bottle-feeding can cause the milk to irritate the Eustachian tube thereby contributing to ear infections.
  • The nose should always be kept clear using steam, saline nose drops, and suctioning.
  • Cigarette smoking should not be done within a baby’s vicinity since smoking irritates baby’s nasal passage thereby leading to Eustachian tube dysfunction.
  • Eating more raw fruits and vegetables can greatly boost the child’s immune system thus help fight off infections.

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