Ear infections occur when a baby has a cold leading to an inflammation of the Eustachian tube. This causes a blockage in the middle ear where mucus or other fluids get collected, which may, then get infected with germs or bacteria. This kind of ear infection is known as Otitis Media and occurs mostly in babies, because of their immature immune system. When this becomes acute, it causes pain and fever. The eardrum becomes red and bulging, and the middle ear is unable to drain the fluid out. This means a lot of pain and discomfort for your baby.
Symptoms of an Ear Infection in Babies
Ear infections aren’t the first thing that come to your mind, if your baby is in discomfort. However, there are a few warning signs you must look out for that can help you spot it well in time. This way, you will be able to protect your baby from the pain of an acute ear infection.
Fever and Fussiness
Many babies develop fever and become fussy during an ear infection. Since ear infections usually occur after the baby catches a cold, it is easy to mistake the temperature and fussiness as side effects of the cold and cough
Pulling/Grabbing The Ear
Does your baby constantly grab his ears? While you may think this is in play or in irritation, it can actually mean that there is pain in his ears. Your baby may be trying to reduce the pain by pulling
In case the ear is infected, the baby may also suffer from diarrhoea and vomiting. But these are among the commonest tummy problems in babies and can be overlooked as routine stomach upset. However, if they accompany/follow a cold and fever, chances are this is an early sign of ear infection
As in the previous symptom, ear infection has a definite impact on the gastrointestinal tract. This may lead to a reduced appetite. Babies are fussy eaters and often refuse food - even something they liked so much the previous day. This is why reduced appetite doesn't always ring a bell or even suggest ear infection in our mind. However, many cases have been reported where this has signalled an ear problem in babies, so it's best to be careful
Your baby may face difficulty in sleeping at this time as lying down makes the infected area more painful. Observe if the sleeping problem (which is a common concern with babies) also accompanies other signs such as ear pulling, fever and stomach problems. If yes, your baby could be suffering from an ear condition that is affecting his sleep ||
Leaking Fluid From Ear
Do your baby’s ears leak fluid? Leaking fluid from the ears is one of the more obvious signs of infection and should be dealt with immediately by visiting the paediatrician
Sometimes, the baby’s ear may exhibit an unpleasant smell because of the infection. This symptom also needs immediate attention as it could signal a more serious problem
How to Prevent Ear Infection in Babies
When babies are in contact with many other young children like in a nursery or day-care, they can easily catch infection. Their immunity is weak and it is fairly easy for germs to invade their body. However, these measures can help reduce your baby's risk of ear infection:
- Breastfeeding helps in boosting the immune system and allows less milk to enter the Eustachian tube
- Babies should not be fed with formula while lying down as this lets small amounts of fluid to enter the Eustachian tube and leads to blockage
- The baby should not be exposed to smoke of any kind
Home Remedies To Treat Ear Infections
If your baby is down with an ear infection, there are some home remedies that can provide relief. These are completely safe and have no side effects:
- Apply a hot compress or hot water bottle to the affected ear for 10 minutes
- Create your own hot compress using salt or rice in a large sock that is slightly warmed in the oven. Warning: Ensure that it is not too hot.
- Pour a few drops of Hydrogen peroxide - the magic liquid - in the infected ear
- Two-three drops of onion juice or olive oil are good as well
- Elevate your child’s mattress to help with drainage by putting something under it. DO NOT place pillows under your child’s head
- Give your child water regularly to sip and swallow. This will help open the blocked Eustachian tube
Antibiotics to Treat Otitis Media (Ear Infection) in Babies
The above home remedies should help your baby recover. Sometimes, ear infections in babies may even clear out on their own without any treatment. Even when symptoms are acute, they usually subside within one or two days. However, if the condition is serious, you may need antibiotics after consultation with the paediatrician.
Antibiotics are less preferred when the infection is mild as they do not help in speedy recovery or reduce complications. Besides, the bacteria can develop a resistance to the medicine. However, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics and/or ear drops when babies have a severe infection with worsening symptoms. Pain can be relieved to a certain extent by using these medicines and the infection will gradually clear up.
Finally, the good news is that ear infections usually occur in babies between six to eighteen months. After this, their immune systems become more mature and the anatomy of their ears also becomes less vulnerable to infection. By age 3, most ear troubles end, and your child will not have to go through all that unpleasantness again!