Ear infections in babies are not contagious, but some of the conditions that cause ear infections can be spread to other people. Ear infections are a common illness that often results from mucus or fluid in the eustachian tube, the connecting channel between the middle ear and the back of the nose. Young children and infants are more likely to develop ear infections, as the smaller size and shape of the eustachian tube make it easy to trap fluid and cause pain and inflammation.
What Are the Symptoms of an Ear Infection in Babies?
Identifying an ear infection in babies can be challenging because most babies cannot tell you their symptoms. Common symptoms of ear infections in babies can include:
- Pain or discomfort: While babies cannot use words to describe pain, you may notice increased irritability, clinginess, or crying. Pain can be more prominent during feedings because the sucking and swallowing motions can cause intense pressure changes. Babies and young children often tug or rub their ears for self-comfort; watch for these changes in behavior.
- Decreased appetite: Some babies lose their appetite because they do not feel well. Additionally, some babies may resist eating or drinking because it can cause ear pain.
- Drainage: In some cases, you may notice a fluid draining from the ears that appears yellow or white, differing from standard wax colors like orange or brown.
- Fever: Fluid and pressure in the ears can lead to fevers ranging from 100-104. Mild fevers are normal with ear infections, but high temperatures of 104 and above may require in-person medical attention.
- Difficulty hearing: Fluid buildup behind the eardrum can alter sound transmission and make sounds more difficult to hear. You may notice your baby does not respond to your voice or sounds if they have an ear infection.
Can Adults Get Ear Infections From Babies?
Ear infections in babies are not contagious and cannot be spread to adults. An ear infection cannot be transmitted to another person, but conditions that cause ear infections, such as a cold or flu, can be contagious. Ear infections in babies result from bacteria and fluid in the ear, and although an ear infection itself is not contagious, the bacteria can be given to adults. Babies may show cold or flu symptoms before or alongside an ear infection; symptoms like coughing, runny nose, and fatigue can be contagious, but an ear infection cannot.
Ear Infection Treatments for Babies
Not all ear infections in babies require prescribed medications. Children aged two or younger with mild symptoms typically improve within several days. Your pediatrician may recommend at-home and over-the-counter treatments like:
- Acetaminophen and ibuprofen for pain management
- Ear drops
- Increased water intake
- A hot or cold compress on the ear
Young children and babies with severe symptoms like a prolonged high fever may require additional interventions, such as antibiotics. Your pediatrician will prescribe an age-appropriate antibiotic and dosage to help treat the infection.
Some children can experience chronic ear infections. If your child has more than four infections in a year, it may be time to see a board-certified ENT.
Schedule an Appointment with a Pediatric ENT Specialist Today
Pediatric ENT Associates at Children’s of Alabama specializes in diagnosing head and neck diseases in infants and children. Our highly trained board-certified ear, nose, and throat specialists are leading experts in the field who actively publish medical journals and participate in research. Our team can assess your child’s symptoms for an accurate diagnosis and create a personalized treatment plan. Contact us to schedule a consultation and learn more about chronic ear infections in babies.