7 Tips To Prevent Baby Ear Infections

How To Prevent Baby Ear Infections

Ear infections are the most common reason children are taken to healthcare providers. Ear infections are mostly seen in children between the age of 6 months and 3 years and occur commonly in children who have had a cold for a few days.

By knowing a few tips on “How to prevent baby ear infections”, you can prevent the occurrence of this common condition in babies.

What Is An Ear Infection?

Ear infection also referred to as acute otitis media, is a bacterial or viral infection that occurs in the middle ear, the space behind the eardrum. Ear infections cause pain and swelling/bulging of the eardrum because of the increased pressure on the eardrum caused by inflammation and excess fluid buildup.

Many cases of ear infections are not serious and go away on their own. However, your doctor may recommend medication for pain relief and antibiotics if the infection has worsened. Small children who are less than 2 years old usually require antibiotics.

Visit your healthcare provider if your child has ongoing pain or discomfort. Hearing problems can be seen with ongoing or frequent infections and fluid accumulation behind the eardrum.

Symptoms Of Ear Infection In The Baby

Babies may develop a wide range of symptoms and these include;

  • Tugging or pulling at the ear. Infants may hit their ear because of their inability to locate and connect the pain to the ear.
  • Ear drainage - Fluid or pus draining out from your baby’s ear. Thick and yellow or bloody fluid can be seen because of a ruptured eardrum in some children.
  • Ear pain when lying down at night
  • Ear congestion
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Crying more than usual
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Loss of balance - Inner ear is the center of balance. An ear infection that causes fluid build-up and pressure in the ear may cause dizziness, clumsiness, and unsteadiness.
  • Difficulty hearing - Fluid build-up in the middle ear can cause temporary loss of hearing.
  • Fever - A sign that occurs when the body is fighting off an ear infection
  • Lack of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea

Fever usually accompanies an ear infection. However, baby ear infection without fever may also be seen. Parents may notice other symptoms like ear pain, ear drainage, ear tugging, trouble hearing, or sleeping. For some babies, it could just be fussiness or crying more than usual.

Causes Of Ear Infection In The Baby

Babies are prone to an ear infection primarily because of the following reasons;

1. Underdeveloped Immune System

Babies have less resistance towards bacteria or viruses and take a longer time to fight off an infection.

[Also Read: Foods to improve immune system]

2. Developing Eustachian Tubes

Eustachian tubes are small passageways connecting the middle ear to the back of the throat. In babies, the Eustachian tubes are smaller and more horizontal because of which excess fluid gets collected in the tubes rather than being drained away. This increases the risk of ear infections in babies. As they grow the Eustachian tubes become longer and vertical. Hence, it is important to avoid feeding the babies while lying flat.

3. Enlarged Adenoids

Adenoids are two pads of tissue located up in the throat, near the opening of the Eustachian tubes. Children have larger adenoids that can interfere with the Eustachian tube opening. Adenoids might get infected and spread the infection to the Eustachian tubes.

Other common factors include;

1. Common Cold

Is the primary cause of an ear infection in babies. The virus causing a cold can easily enter the middle ear through the small Eustachian tube. This causes swelling of the middle ear and the Eustachian tubes. The swelling can trap the middle ear secretions, providing an environment for the growth of micro-organism causing an infection.

2. Allergy

An allergy because of certain foods or airborne irritants can cause inflammation of the sinonasal cavity. This can place pressure on the Eustachian tube leading to narrowing of the tubes that can block the passage of fluids from the middle ear to the nasal cavity. This can cause an infection in the fluid that is accumulated in the middle ear.

3. Sinusitis

Sinusitis is the infection of the nasal sinuses. It causes swelling of the Eustachian tube, resulting in pressure on the middle ear. The bacteria can infect the Eustachian tube lining on the inner side, causing it to bloat. Either way, it causes an ear infection because of the invasion of bacteria in the middle ear secretions.

4. Accumulation Of Milk In Eustachian Tubes

Bottle-fed babies and those babies who drink milk on their backs are at a greater risk of developing inflammation of Eustachian tubes. This is because of the milk moving from their mouth into the ears while feeding. As there is a connection between oral and nasal cavities, drinking while on the back can cause the milk to flow into the nasal cavity. From the nasal cavity, milk travels through the Eustachian tubes to the middle ear. Here the accumulation of milk with the natural milk bacteria may cause an infection and inflammation.

How To Prevent Baby Ear Infection

1. Maintain Hygiene

Wash your hands and child’s hands frequently to reduce the chance of catching a cold.

2. Breastfeeding

Breastfeed your baby for 6 – 12 months because antibodies in the milk can protect your baby from an ear infection.

3. Proper Bottle Position

Avoid bottle-feeding your baby while lying down and consider holding your baby in a semi-upright position. Also, avoid putting your baby to bed with a bottle.

4. Transition From Bottle To Cup

When your baby is going to be 1-year-old, try using a cup instead of a bottle.

5. Avoid The Use Of A Pacifier (soother)

Avoid using pacifiers, at times there are chances that they can also cause an ear infection.

6. Avoid Second Hand Smoke

Quit smoking and protect your child from any secondhand smoke. Exposure to smoke has been reported to increase the risk of an ear infection.

Make sure your child receives flu shots and pneumococcal vaccine.

Baby Ear Infection Home Remedies

Though ear infections can cause severe pain, there are a few home remedies to help ease the discomfort. The home remedies include;

1. Warm Compress

Consider placing a warm, moist compress over your child’s ear to help ease the pain. A warm compress can be held at the ear for about 10 to 15 minutes.

2. Acetaminophen

For babies older than 6 months, consider giving acetaminophen medication as recommended by your doctor. Acetaminophen helps in providing pain relief and alleviating fever. Try to give the medication before going to bed for best results.

3. Warm Oil

Consider placing a few drops of warm sesame oil or olive oil in your child’s infected ear. Use oil only when there is no ear drainage, which occurs because of a ruptured eardrum.

4. Hydration

Keep your babies well hydrated by providing plenty of fluids often. Swallowing can help in the opening of the Eustachian tube that allows the drainage of the trapped fluid.

5. Elevate Your Baby’s Head

Keep your baby’s head slightly elevated to improve your baby’s sinus drainage. Consider placing one or two pillows under the mattress instead of placing them under the baby’s head.

6. Homeopathic Ear Drops

Try using ear drops that contain extracts of lavender, garlic, mullein, or calendula to help relieve pain and inflammation.

Mothers are usually worried about ear infections that commonly occur in babies.

You can consider following the tips on “How to prevent baby ear infections” to keep your baby away from an ear infection.


Vasavi Attada

Vasavi Attada specializes in creating content for the Medical/healthcare domain. She has written articles for Indian Health Organization (IHO), American Diabetes Association, and for magazines such as India Today and Dignity Dialogue.

Vasavi Attada holds a Master’s degree in Microbiology from Bangalore University.