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What Every Parent Should Know About Ear Infections

While anyone can suffer from an ear infection, children are more likely to develop the complication. Studies show 5 out of 6 children suffer from at least one ear infection by age 3. Every parent should know what to do to help prevent ear infections, as well as what remedies will help children find relief.

Little ears, bigger problems

The Eustachian tubes are the part of the ear responsible for making sure that fluid drains properly. When children are still developing, these tubes are smaller and almost parallel to the ground. This means that children have a harder time with fluid drainage, even if the child is otherwise healthy. When a person gets a cold, sometimes the ears can swell and fill with fluid. In children, this is more likely to turn into an infection.

How can you tell there’s an infection?

Children, especially infants, are not always able to communicate when there is a problem. Parents should watch for some specific signs, especially if the child already has a cold. Some of these signs of an ear infection include:

  • Tugging at the ears
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Extra fussiness
  • Fever
  • Trouble hearing
  • Balance problems

Home remedies to try

In addition to seeking treatment from a healthcare provider, parents can try some home remedies to help ease a child’s earache. Placing a warm compress over the affected ear for 10-15 minutes at a time can help to ease the pain. Additionally, keeping a child’s head slightly elevated can help to improve drainage. Make sure the child is staying hydrated with plenty of fluids.

When to see an ENT

If a child is experiencing a fever or has any drainage coming from the ear, see an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist right away. If symptoms of an ear infection are not improving after a few days or a week, experts recommend seeing an ENT.

How can I prevent ear infections?

Children are at a higher risk of getting an ear infection. But there are steps that parents can take. First, vaccinate children for the flu every year. Wash hands regularly to prevent the spread of germs. Avoid exposing small children to cigarette smoke and never put a baby to sleep with a bottle. As much as possible, try to limit a child’s interaction with someone who is currently sick.

Make an ENT appointment

While ear infections are common in children, there are ways to help lower risk. If a child does complain of an earache, make an appointment with an ENT. These specialists can diagnose ear infections and provide treatment options for relief.