3 Important Signs of Infant Ear Infections

ear infections

Infants frequently have a runny nose, feel warm, are cranky, or pull on their eyes. Parents and caregivers may assume their child is teething or has a cold. But did you know these also are signs of an ear infection?

Colds and ear infections are the two most prevalent health disorders young children experience. Infants usually have at least one ear infection before their first birthday, according to experts at Loyola University Health System in Chicago.

Why ear infections occur
Ear infections develop when fluid gets trapped in the middle ear, located behind the eardrum, causing discomfort and pain. Usually this space is filled with air, but when fluid collects there, it often becomes infected by a virus or bacteria. Typically this occurs when congestion from a cold blocks the Eustachian tube, which connects the throat to the middle ear.

Ear infection symptoms
Symptoms indicating an ear infection usually include fever, fussiness, sleeping difficulties or rubbing at the ear. But parents or caregivers may miss these signs because infants can’t talk to communicate how they feel. Instead they cry and fuss. Review these three important symptoms parents and caregivers should look for:

  1. High fever – A temperature over 101 degrees is a primary sign of an ear infection.
  2. Cranky when lying down – Parents concerned about an ear infection often are told to check whether their child is pulling or rubbing their ears. But this may not be a reliable sign. A better indication is whether the child becomes upset when lying down, because fluid in the ear causes pain and pressure on the Eustachian tube.
  3. Sleeping and eating difficulties, vomiting or diarrhea – An infection can affect infants in different ways. Some of these signs are similar to those experienced with teething or a cold, but if combined with other symptoms, an ear infection may be the root of the problem.

Treatment recommended
It’s important to have an ear infection checked by a medical professional to prevent damage to the infant’s hearing. If left untreated, hearing problems can affect a child’s speech and physical development. Depending on whether the infection is caused by a virus or bacteria, health professionals may recommend over-the-counter or prescription medications to treat the symptoms. If a child experiences ear infections frequently, ear tubes may provide relief.

Have you wondered whether a cold can affect your hearing?

When to Worry: Ear Infections