When your baby cries, you want to immediately know what is wrong. Are they sick? Hungry? Tired?

One reason a baby may cry is because they have an ear infection. Ear infections account for most visits to a pediatrician. They are difficult to detect without actually looking inside the ears with an otoscope. 

The pain can be excruciating for babies, often including a pounding sound like a heartbeat. Here, we’ll discuss how to know if your baby has an ear infection and what you can do to help them feel better fast.

Ear Infections in Infants: A Common Problem

In the United States, ear infections are the most commonly diagnosed illnesses in babies, especially after the flu, a cold, or an allergy attack. In a 2017 study, it was shown that 23 percent of babies had at least one ear infection by the time they are 12 months old. More than half have at least one ear infection by three years old.

At Pediatric ENT Associates at Children’s of Alabama in Birmingham, our skilled pediatric otolaryngologists have the education, training, and experience necessary to diagnose and treat your baby’s ear infection. If you think your baby has an ear infection, contact us today at (205) 831-0101.

Why Do Babies Get Ear Infections?

Babies get ear infections for many reasons, and they are particularly prevalent after a child has been sick for a time. Whenever a baby has an upper respiratory problem, there is the possibility for an ear infection.  

There are other reasons why babies get ear infections, including exposure to cigarette smoke, sleeping with a bottle, or exposure to sick children. Babies that are not vaccinated are also more prone to this condition.

Signs Your Baby Has an Ear Infection

stock image of a woman holding her child for blog about pediatric ear infection symptoms in birmingham, AL There are three main types of ear infections, and all can present with slightly different symptoms. If your child shows warning signs of any of these infections, and you are concerned an ear infection might be the culprit, contact your doctor to schedule an appointment. 

Acute otitis media (AOM). The most common type of ear infection, AOM involves parts of the middle ear that are infected and swollen, with fluid buildup behind the eardrum. Commonly called an earache because of the pain, your baby may also have a fever.

Otitis media with effusion (OME). OME is where after an ear infection has run its course, fluid gets trapped behind the eardrum. Your baby may not be exhibiting any symptoms, but a doctor will be able to see the fluid with an otoscope.

Chronic otitis media with effusion (COME). When fluid gets trapped in the middle ear for a long time, or there are repetitive ear infections, a doctor will diagnose COME. This type of ear infection can make it difficult for your baby to fight more infections and can cause hearing loss.

If your child gets recurrent ear infections, our doctors may recommend myringotomy tube placement to help fluid drain from the ear and prevent future problems. 

The signs your baby shows when they have an ear infections are:

  • Fussiness/crying
  • Tugging/pulling at the ear(s)
  • Fever (especially in infants and younger children)
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Fluid draining from the ear
  • Trouble hearing/responding to quiet sounds
  • Clumsiness/problems with balance

If your baby is showing any symptoms of an ear infection, it’s important to immediately take him to a doctor. Antibiotics are often necessary to get rid of the infection, which will consequently alleviate the pain. Contact our pediatric otolaryngologists today at (205) 831-0101 to schedule an appointment for your baby. 

Best Ear Infection Treatments for Infants

stock image of a woman holding her child for a blog about how to tell if your baby has an ear infection in Birmingham Sometimes a baby’s ear infection does not require an antibiotic and will heal on its own. The baby’s natural immune system takes care of the infection. 

Doctors usually recommend that parents wait two to three days after symptoms appear in their babies. This is to allow for time for the infection to clear up on its own. When it is apparent that your baby needs an antibiotic is when doctors will step in.

Sometimes home remedies can help. These at-home treatments may make symptoms better, thus alleviating pain and discomfort until you can get into your doctor. 

Over-the-counter medication. If your baby is six months or older, you may consider giving your child acetaminophen to relieve pain and fever. Always speak to a doctor before giving the medication to your baby.

Warm compress. To help alleviate the pain, you can hold a warm compress to your infant’s ear. Fluids. Also to help alleviate the pain, you can give your baby plenty of fluids to promote swallowing, which can help drain the middle ear.

Contact a Pediatric Otolaryngologist Today and Help Lower Your Child’s Risk for Ear Infections

To help lower your child’s risk of ear infections, keep your baby away from other sick children or be consistent with treatment if your child has allergies. It is also essential to keep regular check-ups with your baby’s pediatrician. Never put your baby to bed with a bottle, and if you smoke, now is the time to quit. 

To make an appointment with one of our ENT specialists for your child’s ear problem, contact Pediatric ENT Associates at Children’s of Alabama in Birmingham today.