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Recurrent ear infection and ear outflow in babies cause to upset the baby as well as parents. Most of the time, it is difficult to recognize that the baby is suffering from an ear infection because the baby cannot talk.
The ear comprises of three parts such as
- The outer ear
- Middle ear
- Inner ear
The middle ear is the area where infection occurs, and inner ear maintains the nerves.
The exterior and middle ear contains two parts identified as eardrum, which transfers signals to the brain by the Eustachian tube from the backside of the nose.
Babies are in the process of development and have small ear tubes which attached to the throat and nose. Therefore, there are more chances of bacteria to enter easily into these small ear tubes during sever ailment such as the cold.
Usually, eustachian tubes help to drain any fluid or liquid from the ear. Severe infections such as allergies and sinus cause to block the eustachian tubes. Due to blocked eustachian tubes, the fluids start to accumulate, and germs begin to develop the infection in the babies’ ear which causes pain and fever.
Let’s discover how ear infection grows and which the probable causes are.
Causes of Ear Infection
As babies are small, their Eustachian tubes still underdeveloped which causes mucus build-up and leads to an ear infection. Read below about the causes of ear infection in the baby.
Your baby can get ear infections due to allergies. It is a response of the immune system to unusual kind of substances. There are some common substances which trigger ear allergies such as
- Pet hair
These kinds of allergies can affect your baby seasonal wise or throughout the year. It can grow mild to severe. During the cold, your baby might experience a runny nose, itchy eyes, rashes, and ear-related symptoms.
Generally, after getting cold, the area between inner ear and eardrum which describe as middle ear get swelling. It accumulates the fluid in the baby’s ear. This condition creates a wet and warm environment inside the ear which makes bacteria to grow. It causes your baby to get fever as the body fight with infection. This kind of ear infections describes as acute otitis media.
Sinus infection also causes ear infection in the babies. Sinusitis in babies is different from the adult sinusitis. During cold babies get crankiness, cough, swollen eyes, low energy, and bad breath with green-yellow nasal discharge.
Most of the time babies with viral upper respiratory infection get ear infection due to the nasal congestion and pressure.
In severe cases, where antibiotics don’t help, your doctor may advise surgery to treat a sinus problem.
During some cases, it is difficult to diagnose the cause of ear infection as the babies developing. In spite, the ethmoid and maxillary sinus present at the time of the birth.
Phlegm also causes ear infection in babies. Mucus is thick, sticky stuff which stays back of the throat during sickness. Phlegm produced in mucus membranes to support and protect respiratory system. These membranes line around nose, mouth, throat, lungs, and sinuses.
Mucus is a healthy component of the respiratory system. But when a baby or an adult have any other disease or infection, this mucus becomes thick and blocks respiratory system. It makes breathing uncomfortable and also affects on ears.
When mucus blocks ear than it makes babies ear clogged and also cause temporary hearing loss.
Smoking also causes ear infection in babies through the parent. Many parents try hard to prevent their baby’s ear infection, but they only cause the problem to their baby.
Indirect smoke causes various health problems in babies such as respiratory infection, asthma, unexpected infant death, and ear infection.
According to recent studies, the risk of ear infection found in babies whose families smoke. The study review shown the calculation of 292950 frequent ear infections every year found in babies. This mean ear infection directly occurred due to tobacco and smoke exposure to the baby.
Avoid smoking slowly to help your baby to recover from an ear infection. Stop smoking to prevent the potential risk of future ear infection.
It is a mass tissue of the lymphatic system which helps the immune system to fight the infection. Adenoiditis located in the throat behind the nose which also describes as pharynx. Apart from tonsils, adenoids are the first protective part against viruses and bacteria.
As the adenoid is the part of the lymphatic system, it stores antibodies and white blood cells to destroy the risky infections. Any occurrence of inflammation in adenoids can affect its functions and limit the performance.
A baby, as well as teens and adults, can experience the middle ear infection. Adenoids rest next to the eustachian tubes which drain the fluids. When adenoids have inflammation, it becomes severe. It causes to block the eustachian opening part in the middle ear which will result in infection and loss of hearing.
It also describes as ear barotrauma which is a disease of ear problem because of the change in air pressure.
Here also eustachian tube plays a vital role. These tubes connect the nose, throat and middle ear to regulate air pressure in the ears. If you have a blockage in the ear and air cannot pass properly, then it refers as barotrauma.
It is common to get the occasional ear barotrauma particularly in an environment where altitude changes. However, this condition is not harmful, but frequent occurrence may create complication. You need to be careful to understand the occasional and chronic ear infections which require medical help.
Baby Ear Infection Symptoms
Your baby might feel very discomforting while having an ear infection. The symptoms may depend on the cause and baby health. Here are the details of symptoms.
Ear Popping and Fullness
The baby might feel fullness and ear popping symptoms. These symptoms occur when the ear infection happens due to an allergic reaction. This reaction causes to produce mucus which drains in the eustachian tube. Due to inflammation, the eustachian tube finds difficult to drain the extra fluid and unable to manage the air pressure. This condition makes the baby ear full and pop.
As the ears play a vital role, its inflammation can result in dizziness, imbalance, and vertigo. Finding the allergen which causing these symptoms can help to prevent further infection.
Pulling and tugging at the ear
Even though your baby is hurt and unable to tell you, the baby will tug and pull his/her ears constantly. It is an important bothering symptom. Babies try to reduce their ear pain by pulling their ear.
Earache and Infections
Earache is a sign of various ailments. Severe diseases occurred by repeated allergic reaction causes to block eustachian tube completely. It collects the fluid in the back of the eardrum and causes ear pain.
If the fluid accumulation left untreated then it causes to develop the ear infection stated by National Institutes of health
Infection in the ear can create a problem for fluid drainage, buzzing sound, and ringing accompanies with fever. Babies and teens are more prone to develop complications. If the infections happen by bacteria, then antibiotics can help. The pediatrician may prescribe ear drop for your baby to clear the ear fluids.
Often Earache needs immediate medical help or a home remedy such as warm compression. You can also reduce the pain with pain reliever.
Hearing loss is also a symptom of baby ear infection. The fluid builds up in the ear because of allergies causes a hearing problem. This problem is claim by the American Speech Language Hearing Association.
The hearing problem occurs when the fluid stops the sound reaching to the inner ear. The hearing problem can be a mild or complete loss. Hearing loss can also affect the clear speaking ability.
If there is no physical damage with fluid build-up in the ear, then it will require medication or surgery for draining the fluid out of ears. It will restore the hearing ability.
Fluid or puss like discharge is a predominant symptom of ear infection. There is an infection in your baby’s ear if you see yellowish – red or clear fluid.
A ruptured eardrum causes the build-up fluid leakage from the middle ear of the baby. The white blood cells which kill bacteria become yellow due to accumulation which forms a puss like discharge from ears.
Foul smell in the baby’s ear
Unpleasant smell without discharge from your baby’s ear is a symptom of ear infection. This smell is noticeable and lasts for days. An unpleasant smell directly comes from the build-up fluid in the eardrum.
The fever without any visible ailment can be a symptom of ear infection.
If your baby gets a fever with temperatures of 102 degrees F, then it might be a sign of ear infection which occur without a cold and other infection.
The temperature of 102 degrees F is a sign of the baby’s ear infection stated by the Dr. Max M April from the American Academy of Otolaryngology.
Eustachian tube plays an important role in appetite. It helps while swallowing by spreading the tube. When a baby or an adult has an ear infection, their ability to swallow may decrease. Due to an infection Eustachian tube gets a swelling which makes widening pretty painful. The baby may get irritated while feeding and stops midway. In some cases, the baby may get a cough or choking sounds because of ear pain.
Loss of balance
Having an ear infection makes a baby lose the balance while crawling or walking. There is a possibility the baby may crawl in a pattern of zig-zag. It means the fluid collection might be hurting the middle ear. The increased fluid puts more pressure on labyrinth – it is a part of the inner ear. It is responsible for managing body balance. In worst cases, the fluid will flow down if you ignore all the symptoms of ear infection.
When a baby gets an ear problem, they seem very annoyed while sleeping as well as being held. In some case, the signs can be misleading. Probably these symptoms mean other disorders also.
The pediatrician can diagnose a baby’s ear infection with the help of the following methods.
A doctor will ask about the symptoms of an ear infection which constantly occurring in the baby. You also require explaining if the baby had any medical history such as throat infection or recent cold. It will help to know the exact condition of ear infection.
An otoscope is a medical camera like equipment with light which pediatrician will use to diagnose the inside ear of the baby. It helps to check the depth of eardrum in the ear. The presence of redness or inflammation is a sign of eardrum infection. The pediatrician also uses a pneumatic otoscope to send an air puff inside the ear canal. A normal ear can easily move the air, but an infected ear finds difficult to move the air.
The pediatrician uses a small plug speaker with a sensor to check the baby ear from inside. This method uses a device which releases the sound at distinct frequencies.
The device sensor allows to measure the eardrum movements ate different frequencies. It helps to detect the air pressure changes in the ear canals. Due to the presence of ear infection, the eardrum will show the impaired movement and abnormal air pressure.
Treatment of Ear Infection
After understanding the causes and symptoms of ear infection in your baby, the pediatrician will tell the following treatments.
The physician will give your baby a course of antibiotics for the treatment of infection. Antibiotics also help to stop the recurring of infections. These antibiotics will come in the form of eardrops. There will be oral antibiotics prescription which will depend on the age of the baby.
The pediatrician also writes some pain relief medicine to reduce the pain. This pain reliever helps baby for proper feeding and comfortable sleep.
It is a process of draining the accumulated fluid from the middle ear to relieve the severe condition. It is an optional treatment when antibiotics don’t work in some cases. This treatment process involved puncturing of eardrum with the help of a tiny needle which drains the fluid from the middle ear. It will provide immediate relief to the baby. The drained fluid will need a laboratory test for the analysis of infection causes.
Use of tympanostomy tubes
Tympanostomy tubes use in the conditions when a baby develop the chronic fluid collection in the middle ear which result in repeated ear infections.
This treatment process involves entering a tympanostomy tube in the eardrum. Tympanostomy is a thin plastic tube of 1 – 1.5 mm length which has open ends from both sides. This tube requires keeping in the ear for 6 – 12 months. As the eardrum enlarges, the tubes will fall off on its own.
Chronic cases of ear infection need longer duration to keep the tubes for 3 years or more in the ears. It will depend on the seriousness of the infection.
Why use a tympanostomy tube?
This tube helps to balance the stability of air pressure inside and outside of the middle ear.
Tympanostomy tube regulates ventilation to promote the fluid build-up evaporation in the baby ear.
The build-up fluid will flow down from the hole of tympanostomy tube from the ear.
In some cases, the baby gets a frequent adenoid infection due to chronic ear infections. During such conditions, the doctor will suggest for the surgical removal of adenoid. This treatment suggests only in some conditions where other medication doesn’t show any result.
How to Prevent Ear Infection?
Follow these easy steps to prevent ear infections.
Maintaining basic hygiene for your baby is important to avoid exposure to infections. Because the baby is developing and bay’s immunes system is weak to fight with any major infection. Keep a regular schedule for baths and wash your baby’s hands. Because babies often put their hands in the mouth which makes bacteria to attack easily.
Make sure to handle your baby with a trusted and healthy person. An individual with cold can easily pass the infection to the baby. Make sure to keep your baby’s toys clean to avoid infections.
Breastfeed your baby
Breastfeeding is the healthiest food for your infant. It includes all the essential nutrition for the immunity of the baby. Breast milk contains antibodies to fight the infections occurred by pathogens.
According to the study of Disease Control and Prevention – US centers, the babies getting breastmilk will less prone to develop an ear infection.
Vaccinate your baby
Every baby must get the important vaccination right after the birth. Vaccination is necessary for your baby in the first 12 months. Being a parent, you should never miss the immunization shots to build baby’s immunity and prevent pathogens which cause an ear infection. The vaccinations include for influenza, flu, pneumonia which can easily attack the eustachian tube.
Skip babysitting centers
Babysitting centers can be a breeding place for various bacteria as many other babies having the infections. If your baby comes in contact with an infected baby, then it can lead to an ear infection.
Avoid tobacco and smoking
Use of cigarette and tobacco can paralyze the tiny hairy structure of eustachian tube which acts to clean the tubes. Due to indirect smoke, the baby’s ears are unable to maintain cleanliness and more likely to increase the fluid accumulation. It will increase ear infections.
Avoid bottle feed on baby’s back
Bottle feeding makes milk flow faster than breast milk. It can create the risk of entering milk into the eustachian tubes. Feeding your baby with a bottle while the baby is lying on the back can cause the milk to enter into the nasal passages and eustachian tubes. It makes the perfect situation for bacterial growth and leads to ear infections.
The best position to bottle feed your baby is to hold him/her on your lap and hold the bottle horizontally in the mouth. If your baby is ready to hold the bottle, then make sure the baby’s bed is in a horizontal position.
Avoid air travel when your baby is suffering from ear infection. Air travel can cause fluctuation in ear air passage and pressure balance. It happens because of the low pressure of aircraft and high pressure in the middle ear. Air travel widens the eustachian tube to regulate the air pressure. It can be extremely painful for babies with an ear infection.
Ear infections left untreated for more time can have serious results. One of the biggest results of ear infection can cause a complete loss of hearing ability. It may also rupture the eardrum. Here are major complications such as
Mastoiditis is a disease in which the ear’s beneath bone get an infection. Mastoid contains air pockets which help to drain the fluid into the middle ear. Increasing infection in middle ear exposes the mastoid bone to virus and bacteria.
Cholesteatoma occur when a baby has frequent ear infections. It is unusual cell build up in the middle ear. These accumulated cells develop a thick wall of dead skin which causes bone damage in the middle ear.
Often severe infection of the middle ear can flow to the inner ear which spread the infection to the labyrinth bone. It happens when the infection is left untreated for a long time.
In some cases, due to infectious bacteria can move to the nasal cavity and enter in the central nervous system through labyrinth bone. It is also possible if the baby already had labyrinthitis. Therefore, it can create serious complication of the nervous system which describes as meningitis.
Ear infection in babies can be extremely painful. The parent may feel helpless when the baby feels discomfort and cries all the time. It is a crucial time for the parent, and they should not get panic. Get help from family members and consult your doctor to find immediate relief to the baby. Never give your baby any medicine or home remedy without discussing with the doctor.