Up To Your Ears
Living and Loving|February 2017

Almost all babies get ear infections from time to time, so it’s important parents know how to identify them and help their children get the right treatment.

Alex Gazzola

While every parent hopes and prays that their baby or toddler is always in peak health, it is inevitable that young children will at some time become ill. Ear infections are one of the most common ailments in infancy, and it is a lucky baby who escapes them altogether. The good news is that complications are extremely rare, and in almost all cases, your baby will make a complete recovery.

What causes ear infections?

Bacteria and viruses are the usual suspects, making ear infections common during, or just after, a cold or bout of flu. The Eustachian tube – which connects the middle ear to the back of the nose and throat – can become blocked during illness, disabling its natural drainage system. Any bugs that have managed to travel from the back of the throat or nose can settle in and around the middle ear. If fluid is trapped there, it makes an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, and they multiply rapidly, resulting in swelling and pain. As your baby’s body tries to fight the infection, he’ll develop a fever.

“The immune systems of children under three aren’t adept at dealing with the kinds of bacteria and viruses that cause ear infections, making them more prone to them,” says ENT (ear, nose and throat) specialist Haytham Kubba. “Eventually, though, their systems will get stronger and when the shape and structure of their skull changes as they get older, the Eustachian tube will grow and become a more efficient line of defence against invading bugs.”

What are the symptoms?

Pain or discomfort and fever are usually the clearest signs. Your toddler will tell you if his ear hurts, but babies can’t, so you’ll probably notice him pulling at his ears instead. Other signs could be a change of mood, agitation, a reduced appetite, diarrhoea or a change in sleeping patterns. Commonly, you may notice pus and foul-smelling fluid draining from the ears. For unclear reasons, boys are more susceptible than girls to ear infections.

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