Preventing and Treating Ear Infections

An ear infection often starts as a dull ache but can quickly turn into piercing pain. Most kids have an ear infection at least once before age five. Adults can get them, too. Here’s what you need to know about preventing and treating ear infections.

Middle-ear infection

Ear infections usually occur in the middle ear, located behind the eardrum. The middle ear is connected to the throat by the eustachian tube. This tube lets air into the middle ear and drains out excess fluid.

When you develop a cold, flu or even have allergies, you’ll have extra drainage that can plug the eustachian tube. Germs from the drainage can cause fluid to build up and create swelling and pressure in the ear. The middle ear will start to ache and become painful as infection forms.

Kids at increased risk

The immune system and eustachian tube develop as a child grows. So when an infection occurs in the middle ear, kids may not have the ability to fight it.

Kids age 2 and younger have a eustachian tube that is narrow and level. But for older kids and adults, it is larger and slanted, so it’s easier for fluids in the middle ear to drain. By preventing and treating ear infections promptly, parents and caregivers can help kids avoid painful ear infections.


Ear infections often occur in the fall and winter when the incidences of colds and flu are higher. Parents and caregivers should frequently wash kids’ hands with soap and water, disinfect toys, and keep germy and dirty items away from kids’ mouths.

When kids drink from a bottle or suck on a pacifier, they should sit up to allow fluids to drain properly. Medical experts also recommend making sure kids’ shots are current, so their bodies have the immunity to fight off diseases and infection.


Most ear infections clear up on their own. But contact your doctor for treatment help if a child (or adult) has a fever that lasts more than a few days. This especially is important if acetaminophen or ibuprofen doesn’t work, the ear hurts or there is drainage from the ear. Preventing and treating ear infections is an important part of maintaining good hearing and balance.

Excess fluid in the middle ear can affect your hearing. Read this article to learn more.

NIH News in Health


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