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ABC’s of Newborns- E is for Ear Infections

by | Jun 11, 2019

As someone who had a great number of ear surgeries for hearing loss as a child, and more ear infections than I can count, I can honestly say ear pain and infections are the absolute worst.

 

And it’s even worse when it’s a baby who has the ear infection, because they can’t exactly tell you what’s wrong verbally, making it a never-ending guessing game of why is my baby crying.

 

Is the diaper too tight? Is the baby hungry? Is the baby too hot or too cold? Does the baby have a tummy ache?

 

Sometimes, the answer to why your baby is crying is none of these, and they may have an ear infection.  Ear infections in infancy are common, especially if your baby is getting over a cold or allergic reaction.  

This typical type of ear infection, called otitis media, occurs when the cold or allergy causes swelling of the baby’s eustachian tube, leading to a blockage that allows bacteria to grow inside the ear.  Otitis media is more common in newborns as opposed to children or adults because babies’ immune systems are still weak and developing, and their eustachian tubes may not effectively drain fluid from the middle ear just yet.

What is an ear infection?

 There are two types of otitis media:

Acute otitis media– where the primary symptoms are pain, fever, and a bulging red eardrum (this is the ear infection that will typically have you baby up all night crying, unfortunately)

Otitis media with effusion (OME): where the middle ear is not draining properly and there is a fluid build up.  OME often does not have any painful symptoms, so this one may be harder to self-diagnose as an ear infection before seeing your doctor.

Can you prevent ear infections?

However, you can be super conscientious about cleaning and drying your baby’s ears and they could still get an ear infection.  Luckily, there are some easy ways to prevent your baby from getting an ear infection such as:

-Eliminating exposure to cigarette smoke

-Breastfeeding (it boosts baby’s immune system!)

-Not letting your baby drink from a bottle while lying down.  

What are the symptoms of an ear infection?

Your baby is most likely to get an ear infection from 6-18 months of age, but they can occur at any age. If you notice that your baby’s attitude has shifted significantly, has a reduced appetite, is vomiting or has diarrhea, or has a fever, or notice fluid draining from his or her ear, you should call your doctor for further instruction.  

What is the treatment?

Your pediatrician may deem treatment not necessary, as they may clear up on their own with a little TLC.  They may prescribe holding a warm compress to the ear may help reduce pain and lessen the infection or slightly elevating the head side of your baby’s crib during nap time to help with fluid drainage.

Other times, your pediatrician may recommend a round of antibiotics. If ear infections are repetitive, your pediatrician may also recommend being seen by a pediatric ear, nose, and throat doctor. 

Sam Steel

BIRTH DOULA, POSTPARTUM DOULA, PLACENTA SPECIALIST + BEACH LOVER

Miami Beach, FL

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