Have you noticed your baby is tugging on her ear? Is she generally fussy and seems agitated or potentially in pain as well? She may have an ear infection! Stick with us through the blog to learn all about ear infection symptoms and some of the ways you can help your little one through it all.
Ear infection in kids
Ear infections can affect the ear canal or the middle ear and are common in babies. In fact, a study in Pediatrics actually found that 23 percent of babies in the U.S. will experience at least one ear infection before they reach their first birthday. After that, the percentage actually increases to more than 50 percent of kids experiencing an ear infection by the age of three.
Babies and children are more prone to ear infections due to having shorter and narrower Eustachian passages than adults. As a result, it’s easier for bacteria to reach children's middle ears and fluid is more easily trapped there. Ultimately, that is what causes ear infections: an unhealthy bacterial growth or a viral infection (such as the common cold).
Common types of ear infections in babies
Children (especially babies) do not have fully developed immune systems, which makes it harder for them to fight off infections. As a result, they are more prone to developing ear infections than adults might be. That being said, babies’ natural defenses are usually enough to fight off an ear infection. You’ll still want to know what you’re dealing with, though, so below find some of the most common types of ear infections babies experience.
- Acute otitis externa (AOE), also known as swimmer's ear, refers to an infection in the ear canal.
- Otitis media is an infection in the middle ear that can cause inflammation, leading to a fluid buildup behind the eardrum and the swelling of the Eustachian tubes.
- Otitis media with effusion (OME) occurs when fluid builds up in the middle ear but does not usually present with pain or a fever.
- Acute otitis media (AOM) refers to a fluid buildup in the ear, typically resulting from a bacterial infection.
Ear infection symptoms
Fortunately, the pain that accompanies ear infections tends to come on rapidly and does not last long; it may even wear off within 24 hours. There are other symptoms to look for, however, especially considering that not all ear infections even present with pain as a symptom.
Symptoms in babies and young children
In babies and young children, oftentimes the only sign of an ear infection is a fever. Other times, there are additional symptoms like the ones listed below:
- Tugging or pulling at the ear or earlobe
- Crying and very irritable temperament
- Difficulty sleeping (especially at the beginning of the infection)
- Vomiting and/or loss in appetite
- “Clingy” temperament
- Fever or headache
- Yellow or white fluid coming from the ears (occasionally accompanying a burst eardrum)
- Unpleasant smell coming from the ears
Symptoms in older children
Older children suffering from an ear infection will often complain about significant ear pain and may also have a fever. They may also complain about not feeling well or not being able to hear as well out of the affected ear.
Natural ear infection treatments
As mentioned earlier in this blog, your child’s immune system will generally be able to fight off an ear infection. For that reason, doctors often advise parents to wait and monitor their child for two to three days to see if symptoms improve before giving antibiotics for the infection. In the meantime, there are some natural remedies you might try to help fight your child’s ear infection. They include the following:
- Warm compress held to your child's ear to help ease pain
- Fluids to drink, which encourages swallowing and may help drain the middle ear and relieve pressure
- Coconut oil drops (not solidified coconut oil) placed into each ear canal to deploy coconut oil’santimicrobial and antiviral properties
- Over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen (for babies six months old and older) to relieve pain or fever
If you notice your baby has a fever of 102.2 degrees Fahrenheit or higher or discharge or fluid starts coming from her ear, contact your doctor. Additionally, if symptoms get worse, last more than two or three days, or include hearing loss, you should also seek advice from your doctor.
If you’re interested in trying coconut oil to help with symptoms, we recommend using Pure Baby, which was designed with moms and babies in mind.