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How To Know If Your Baby Has A Ear Infection

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Symptoms That Teething And Ear Infections Share

Ear Infections | When to Worry | Parents

There are a lot of symptoms of teething and ear infections that are pretty similar, so it can be hard to tell them apart when your child is feeling unwell.

If your little one is waking more frequently in the night, then they might be teething, or have an ear infection. Fussiness during the day or at night can be a sure sign something is wrong with your baby, with many different causes.

Flushed red cheeks are another symptom that could point to either teething or an ear infection.

If your little one is restless, irritable, and has a reduced appetite, then it’s most likely that something is wrong. Check with the symptoms below to try to identify if this is an ear infection or if your child is teething.

Cheek rubbing is often something your child will do when they have ear pain or sore gums, so this could point to either cause. If your baby is ear pulling or hitting their ears, this could be because of pain in their ears, but it also could actually be caused by teething pains. Often babies can’t detect the exact place their pain is coming from, so they think that ear pulling will help. If they haven’t got a fever or any cold symptoms, then this is probably a symptom of their teething pain.

If your baby is refusing to lie flat on their back, it could be because they have an ear infection or because of teething pains.

Medical Treatment In Children

Doctors often take a wait-and-see approach when treating ear infections in children to avoid over-prescribing antibiotics, which can lead to antibiotic resistance.

A doctor may sometimes write you a prescription for antibiotics if symptoms are severe or dont resolve within 2 to 3 days. Alternatively, they may write you a prescription but recommend waiting first to see if your childs symptoms get better after 2 to 3 days.

Its important to finish your entire prescription. Often, a 7- or 10-day prescription of amoxicillin is prescribed.

You shouldnt give children aspirin without their doctors instruction. Aspirin is a preventable risk factor for developing Reyes syndrome, a rare disorder that causes brain and liver damage.

Key Points To Remember About Ear Infections

If you think your child has an ear infection, take them to your family doctor.

  • ear infections are very common in young children
  • they can cause pain, and often fever
  • if you think your child has an ear infection, take them to your family doctor
  • pain relief is important
  • antibiotics are often not needed
  • always take your child to your family doctor for an ear check 4 to 6 weeks after an ear infection, to make sure the ear fluid has gone
  • most children outgrow ear infections and will have perfect, undamaged ears and normal hearing

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Can I Do Anything To Prevent Ear Infections In My Child

It is not easy to prevent ear infections, but the following may help reduce the risk:

  • making sure your child’s environment is smoke-free.
  • breastfeeding your baby for at least 3 to 6 months is thought to be protective against the early development of ear infections – this may be because breastfeeding boosts the infection-fighting system
  • keeping your child’s room warm and dry
  • making sure your child has all their immunisations on time

Why Do Children Get Ear Infections More Often Than Adults

How to Spot and Prevent the signs of Baby

Ear infections are more common in children for a few reasons. Theyre young, so their immune systems are still developing. Their immune systems will grow stronger over time as they get exposed to new viruses and bacteria.

Also, the eustachian tubes are smaller in children. These tubes connect the middle ear to the back of the throat. Its easier for them to become blocked by mucous from a cold or other infection. As a result, fluid may not be able to drain out of their ears properly.

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What Are Other Causes Of Ear Pain

Other causes of ear pain include:

  • A sore throat.
  • Teeth coming in in a baby.
  • An infection of the lining of the ear canal. This is also called swimmers ear.
  • Pressure build up in the middle ear caused by allergies and colds.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/16/2020.

References

Should I Take My Baby To The Doctor

Even if you are unsure if your baby is experiencing an ear infection, it’s better to err on the side of caution and call your doctor.

If they do not believe there is an issue, they may tell you to stay home. However, since baby ear infections are so common, its likely they will have you come in for an exam. There is no harm in getting things checked outthe worst that will happen is that your baby doesnt have an ear infection and you can feel some relief.

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How Can I Prevent My Child From Getting An Ear Infection

  • Wash your childs hands and your own often to reduce the chance of catching a cold.
  • Breastfeed your baby.
  • Avoid bottle-feeding your baby when they are lying down. Never put your baby to bed with a bottle.
  • Transition your baby from a bottle to a cup by 1 year of age.
  • Dont use a pacifier too often.
  • Dont smoke, and keep your child away from any secondhand smoke. Exposure to smoke can increase the risk of ear infections.
  • Ensure your child gets the pneumococcal vaccine .
  • Ensure your child gets a flu shot every year.

When Is It More Than An Ear Infection

How to tell if your baby is teething or has an ear infection

There are a couple of cases when your child may be experiencing more than a standard ear infection:

  • The chronic ear infection: One or two ear infections a year, while never fun to handle, are fairly normal. A chronic ear infection may be the result of an acute ear infection that does not clear completely, or of recurrent ear infections.
  • Otitis media with effusion : Sometimes fluid from an ear infection remains in the middle ear and doesnt clear even after treatment. When fluid remains for too long in the ear even after an infection clears, its considered otitis media with effusion, or OME. While typically temporary lasting four to six weeks OME could lead to temporary hearing loss. Since the hearing loss can become permanent if the condition continues untreated for many months, its important for your child to see the pediatrician.

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Ear Infection Vs Teething: How To Tell The Difference

Sometimes telling the difference between signs of teething vs ear infection symptoms in babies can be complicated.

Signs and symptoms of ear infection vs teething can often overlap, and it can be confusing trying to work out whether ear pulling or a low-grade fever are caused by one or the other. We’ve put together a guide to the symptoms to help you understand what’s going on, and some helpful treatment tips that should help your child feel better in no time.

For more, take a look at our guide to a 9-month-old baby not crawling or check out some ideas on how to navigate too.

Still Not Sure Head To The Doc

The only way to be sure that your child has an ear infection is to visit your pediatrician. Take a baby younger than age 2 to the doctor if a cold and apparent discomfort don’t go away in two or three days, or if a fever doesn’t go away in one or two days.

When your physician peeks in your child’s ear to check for signs of an infection, she’s looking at the eardrum to see if it is red, thick, or bulging.

American Baby

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Symptoms Of Ear Infections In Babies

There are many symptoms that may indicate an ear infection. Again, just having one of these symptoms doesnt always mean your baby has an ear infection. But if your baby has several of these symptoms togetherand especially if they have recently had a cold or other virus you can suspect that they may have an ear infection.

  • Crankiness and fussiness due to discomfort and pain
  • Trouble sleeping or lying down flat
  • Pulling at the ears from pain
  • Fever
  • Digestive discomfort
  • Clumsiness due to ear balance issues
  • Yellow or brownish fluid draining out of your babys ear
  • Difficulty hearing or responding to the sound of your voicethis is due to fluid build up in the ear and should resolve after the ear infection is over

Do Ear Infections Go Away On Their Own

Treating Your Child

Oftentimes, ear infections go away on their own within 2 or 3 days. This is why pediatricians sometimes take a wait-and-see approach for, say, 48 to 72 hours particulaly for children aged 2 and older who have milder ear infections.

Not every childhood ear infection warrants antibiotics, since some are caused by viruses that wont respond to antibiotics, and giving your child too many antibiotics can put him at risk for becoming resistant to these potent drugs when theyre really needed.

If your baby is 6 months or younger and its determined to be acute otitis media, however, your doctor will probably prescribe a course of antibiotics. Pediatricians may also prescribe antibiotics for children aged 6 months to 2 years who are having more severe symptoms. Your doctor may also start your child on antibiotics if his symptoms haven’t gotten better within two to three days.

Even if your doctor has suggested a wait-and-see approach for past ear infections, that may not be what your child needs for this one. So if you suspect your child has an ear infection, call your pediatrician to get your child’s ears examined.

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Symptoms Of Earache In Babies And Young Children

About three-quarters of ear infections happen in children under 10 years of age.

Most earaches in children are caused by viral infections that will clear up by themselves in 3 to 4 days.

A young child with earache might also:

  • have a temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or above
  • rub or pull their ear
  • not react to some sounds
  • be irritable or restless

How Is An Acute Middle Ear Infection Treated

Many doctors will prescribe an antibiotic, such as amoxicillin, to be taken over seven to 10 days. Your doctor also may recommend over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, or eardrops, to help with fever and pain.

If your doctor isnt able to make a definite diagnosis of OM and your child doesnt have severe ear pain or a fever, your doctor might ask you to wait a day or two to see if the earache goes away. The American Academy of Pediatrics issued guidelines in 2013 that encourage doctors to observe and closely follow these children with ear infections that cant be definitively diagnosed, especially those between the ages of 6 months to 2 years. If theres no improvement within 48 to 72 hours from when symptoms began, the guidelines recommend doctors start antibiotic therapy. Sometimes ear pain isnt caused by infection, and some ear infections may get better without antibiotics. Using antibiotics cautiously and with good reason helps prevent the development of bacteria that become resistant to antibiotics.

If your doctor prescribes an antibiotic, its important to make sure your child takes it exactly as prescribed and for the full amount of time. Even though your child may seem better in a few days, the infection still hasnt completely cleared from the ear. Stopping the medicine too soon could allow the infection to come back. Its also important to return for your childs follow-up visit, so that the doctor can check if the infection is gone.

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What Are The Symptoms Of An Ear Infection

There are three main types of ear infections. Each has a different combination of symptoms.

  • Acute otitis media is the most common ear infection. Parts of the middle ear are infected and swollen and fluid is trapped behind the eardrum. This causes pain in the earcommonly called an earache. Your child might also have a fever.
  • Otitis media with effusion sometimes happens after an ear infection has run its course and fluid stays trapped behind the eardrum. A child with OME may have no symptoms, but a doctor will be able to see the fluid behind the eardrum with a special instrument.
  • Chronic otitis media with effusion happens when fluid remains in the middle ear for a long time or returns over and over again, even though there is no infection. COME makes it harder for children to fight new infections and also can affect their hearing.

Why Are Children More Likely Than Adults To Get Ear Infections

How do I know if my baby’s pain is from teething or his ear infection & should see the doctor again?

There are several reasons why children are more likely than adults to get ear infections.

Eustachian tubes are smaller and more level in children than they are in adults. This makes it difficult for fluid to drain out of the ear, even under normal conditions. If the eustachian tubes are swollen or blocked with mucus due to a cold or other respiratory illness, fluid may not be able to drain.

A childs immune system isnt as effective as an adults because its still developing. This makes it harder for children to fight infections.

As part of the immune system, the adenoids respond to bacteria passing through the nose and mouth. Sometimes bacteria get trapped in the adenoids, causing a chronic infection that can then pass on to the eustachian tubes and the middle ear.

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How Do You Know If Your Baby Has Ear Infection

Your little one may develop an ear infection when a virus or bacteria infect and trap fluid behind the eardrum. This extra fluid causes pain and bulging of the eardrum. Common signs that your baby has an ear infection include crying, irritability, tugging at the ear, difficulty feeding, ear drainage, and fever.

Tests For Middle Ear Infection

The GP will look carefully at the inside of your childs ear using an instrument called an otoscope.

The GP might also do a tympanometry. This test measures how much your childs eardrum can move, and it can help the GP work out whether the ear is normal. Its usually a painless test that takes just a couple of minutes.

If your child has had several ear infections, or if your doctor thinks there might be a chronic infection or glue ear, the doctor might organise a hearing test. Your child can have a formal hearing test at any age.

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Signs Of An Ear Infection

Ear infections are common in babies, and it is helpful to know the classic signs to watch out for:

  • Crying and irritability: Your babys ear is most likely painful, so expect crying and irritability. You may notice more crying when your baby lies down. This is because the ear pressure increases with lying down, leading to an increase in pain and discomfort during an ear infection.
  • Tugging at the ear: Because your baby is too young to tell you that their ear hurts, look for signs such as tugging on the affected ear.
  • Difficulty feeding: The act of sucking and swallowing causes changes in ear pressure and is usually uncomfortable during an ear infection. You may notice that your baby is hungry and seems eager to eat, but stops right away.
  • Trouble sleeping: Expect a restless night or two when your baby has an ear infection. Because lying down is painful, your little one will probably wake throughout the night.
  • Ear drainage: Its possible for your baby to develop ear drainage with an ear infection. The drainage will appear different than normal ear wax, which is orange-yellow or reddish-brown. Infected drainage may appear white, green, yellow, or blood-tinged and have a foul odor.
  • Fever: Its estimated that about 50% of babies and children will develop a fever with an ear infection.

Are Ear Infections Contagious

How Do You Know If Your Baby Has An Ear Infection? My Baby ...

No, an ear infection itself is not contagious. However, the cold or illness that led to it could be. So while your child cant catch an ear infection from a friend at day care, he can catch the cold or flu virus that results in an ear infection.

To help prevent this, teach your child proper hygiene, such as washing hands frequently and sneezing or coughing into the crook of his arm or a tissue that is immediately thrown away. Also make sure hes up-to-date on his vaccinations.

If your child already has an ear infection, he can go back to school or day care after his fever clears up and he’s no longer in pain.

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When To Visit The Doctor

If you think your child has an ear infection either middle ear or outer ear call PlunketLine or take them to a doctor.

Antibiotics arent usually needed to treat an ear infection, since the infections are usually viral . Your doctor may wait to see whether the infection will clear up by itself. However, if your child is unwell and feverish, your doctor may recommend antibiotics.

Prevent The Spread Of Covid

A high temperature can be a symptom of COVID-19.

A sore throat can also cause earache.

If there is no fever or temperature, the earache may be caused by a wax blockage or glue ear. Glue ear is where the empty middle part of the ear canal fills up with fluid.

Sometimes the pressure can cause the eardrum to burst and fluid may come out of the ear. Do not worry if this happens. Keep the ear dry and contact your GP.

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