ear infections - also known as otitis media - are
one of the most common illnesses affecting infants
and young children. Most children have at least one
ear infection by age 3. By age 7, almost all
children have had an ear infection.
Ear infections usually start with a cold, which
can cause fluid to build up behind a child's
eardrum. The fluid itself isn't necessarily a
problem. But it's an ideal breeding ground for
bacteria or viruses that cause infection.
An acutely infected ear is very painful. But
interpreting pain in a child who may be too young to
communicate verbally can be a challenge. Signs other
than pain may be more apparent. A child with an ear
infection may also have a fever and be irritable or
listless. Difficulty sleeping is common.
Choose a small
child-care setting, if possible.
Children in child care are more likely to have ear infections than
children who are cared for at home. And the more young children
there are in a child-care setting, the greater are the chances that
your child will catch a cold that leads to an infection. To reduce
your child's chances of exposure, select a child-care center that
has few children of similar age.
child from secondhand smoke.
Children who breathe secondhand smoke are far more likely to develop
ear infections. If they do get sick, they will also take longer to
recover. The best way to keep your child safe is to make sure that
no one smokes in your home and car. Preferably, no one should smoke
in your child's presence at all, such as in restaurants or at other
gatherings. Also, in most states, child-care centers are supposed to
be smoke-free. Check to make sure yours meets this requirement.
your baby for at least 4 months.
Infants who are bottle-fed are more likely to develop ear infections
than are babies who are breast-fed. Breast-feeding helps by passing
along immunity that protects against middle ear infections. It also
helps keep your baby's eustachian tubes from becoming blocked. If
you do bottle-feed, hold your baby in an upright position. Avoid
having your child feed from a bottle while lying in bed.
Ask your doctor
about the pneumococcal 7-valent conjugate vaccine (Prevnar).
This vaccine prevents the seven most common subtypes of the
pneumococcal bacterium found among children. It's given as a series
of four shots at 2, 4, 6 and 15 months of age. Although Prevnar is
intended to prevent serious, life-threatening infections such as
pneumonia and meningitis and has been shown to slightly reduce the
incidence of some ear infections, it won't prevent all ear