8 Signs of Ear Infections in Babies and Toddlers – Feb. 3, 2021
Many of our team members at One Community Health are parents ourselves—we understand that it’s hard seeing our children sick or in pain, and not knowing what’s causing it. Ear infections can be particularly painful. Very young children aren’t able to verbalize when their ear hurts, so it is helpful for you to know and watch for common signs of ear infections in babies and toddlers to get them the help they need.
What causes ear infections?
Ear infections (otitis media) are caused by bacteria or a virus, leading to fluid and pressure buildup in the eustachian tubes. The eustachian tube is a canal or passageway that connects the middle ear to the throat. When fluid and pressure buildup, the middle ear cannot drain properly, leading to infection. Ear infections in kids are often caused by colds, sinus infections or allergies.
Why do babies get ear infections?
Babies and toddlers between the ages of six months and two years old tend to get more ear infections than older children and adults. This is because their immune systems are underdeveloped and their eustachian tubes are smaller and more level, making it more difficult for fluid to drain.
Common Signs of Ear Infections in Babies
1. Tugging or hitting the ear
Children attempt to relieve the pain that ear infections cause by pulling on their ear. Babies under one year might hit their ear as they have difficulty locating the exact source of the pain and lack the fine motor skills to tug. While children may tug at their ears for other reasons, this is one clue that might suggest an ear infection.
2. Difficulty sleeping or lying down
Lying down with an ear infection causes the pressure in the middle ear to shift. This change in pressure can be very painful, so children with ear infections may avoid lying down and have difficulty sleeping.
A fever alone does not mean your child has an ear infection, but it is evidence that the body is working hard to fight off an infection of some kind. A fever along with other signs of an ear infection in your baby would be highly indicative that they need to see a doctor.
4. Excessive crying
As we’ve discussed, ear infections cause a great deal of pain and pressure and since young children are unable to verbalize this, they will likely cry, fuss or be more irritable than usual. Again, crying could be caused by any number or things, but be on alert for other symptoms that might suggest your baby has an ear infection.
5. Trouble hearing
As fluid builds up in the middle ear, your child may experience a temporary loss of hearing. You may notice your child is unresponsive to sounds.
6. Drainage from the ear
Fluid or pus draining from your child’s ear is a clear sign of an ear infection and is caused by a ruptured eardrum. Don’t be alarmed though—it will heal on its own in a few weeks. If you don’t notice drainage from the ear, this doesn’t mean an ear infection isn’t present as not all ear infections produce drainage.
7. Difficulty balancing
Pressure and fluid in the inner ear can make your child dizzy, unsteady, or clumsy. This is because our vestibular system (or center of balance) is located in the inner ear.
8. GI symptoms
Infants who have an ear infection may sometimes also have diarrhea and vomiting or reduced appetite. If you notice any of these things in your baby, look for additional signs that may indicate an ear infection.
Ear Infection Treatment in Sacramento
Most ear infections go away after a few days without the use of antibiotics, with full recovery after one to two weeks. However, call your doctor if symptoms do not improve after a couple of days. Your child’s pediatrician at One Community Health will recommend a treatment plan or prescribe an antibiotic to help heal the infection.
Image used under creative commons license – commercial use (2/3/2021) by Laura Lee Moreau on Unsplash