Ear infections in babies
How can I tell if my baby has an ear infection?
It can be difficult to tell if your baby has an infection. If she has a cough or runny nose and suddenly develops a fever three to five days later, she may have an ear infection. She may tug at her ear or be out of sorts. You may find that she isn’t hearing as well, for example she may not be responding when you call her or she may be quieter than usual. Finally, you may notice that she is louder than usual.
How common are ear infections?
Ear infections are very common in babies and young children, especially in the winter months.
What has caused my baby’s ear infection?
Your baby probably has a cold, which has caused her middle ear to become swollen. The swelling has trapped fluid inside her ear. This creates a warm, wet environment where bacteria and viruses can spread.
When the infection sets in, pus develops and pressure on your baby’s eardrum causes it to bulge and become inflamed. Your baby may then get a fever as her body attempts to fight the infection.
Another reason your baby can get ear infections is because the tube in her middle ear is short and horizontal, as it’s still developing. As she grows up, the tube will triple in length from 1.25cm to 3.8cm and become more vertical, reducing the chance of infection.
How can my baby’s ear infection be treated?
Take your baby to the doctor if your think she has an ear infection. Many ear infections get better on their own, but your doctor may prescribe antibiotics. Your baby’s ear should start to improve in three or four days, with or without antibiotics.
You can also give your baby infant acetaminophen if she is three months or older. Take a baby under three month old to the doctor at the first signs of illness. The acetaminophen will reduce the pain and fever. Also offer her plenty of breastfeeds to keep her hydrated. If your baby is formula-fed or on solids you can offer her extra water.
Read our article on treating ear infections for more information.
Why is pus oozing from my baby’s ear canal?
Pus or bloody-yellowish fluid coming out of your baby’s ear means she has developed a small hole in her eardrum. This should heal by itself within about two weeks, but call your doctor to get it checked out.
My baby’s ear hasn’t improved. What should I do?
If your baby’s ear infection hasn’t improved after four days, with or without treatment with antibiotics, ask your doctor to examine her ear. Your baby could have a more serious ear infection that can break the ear drum and flood the ear canal. Sometimes this can lead to problems such as hearing impairment.
If your baby gets recurring ear infections, this can also lead to hearing loss and scarring inside her ear. This is rare, but it’s important to treat your baby as soon as she gets an ear infection to stop it getting worse. Find out what to do if your baby has recurring ear infections.
What can I do to prevent my baby getting an ear infection?
There are some things you can do to help prevent your baby getting an ear infection:
- Make sure that she gets all of her vaccinations. The Hib B and the Pneumococcal vaccine are especially important for preventing ear infections.
- Sit your baby up to give her a feed, rather than holding her lying on her back.
- Try to breastfeed your baby. Breast milk is full of antibodies that can help her to fight infections.
- If your baby uses a soother, only give it to her when you’re settling her to sleep.
- Don’t smoke or allow anyone else to smoke around your baby.
- If possible, try not to put your baby in a daycare when she is less than a year old. Daycare can expose her to more coughs and colds, which can lead to more ear infections.