Ear Infections In Kids: A Quick Guide

Ear infections can be very common in young children. In fact, 5 out of every 6 children get an ear infection sometime in childhood, so your chances of escaping completely are slim. And when you're trying to help your fussy baby or sobbing toddler get through the pain, you want to do everything you can to keep it from happening again.

How to Know It's an Ear Infection

You've got two problems: Ear infections can sometimes seem to be other maladies, and your young child can't properly communicate the issue. So how do you know pretty certainly that you're dealing with an ear infection? Look for these signs:

  • Cold symptoms -- usually a cold is what starts the ear infection.
  • Fussiness and complaining of ear pain.
  • Discomfort laying down and frequent waking.
  • Ear drainage.

It's probably not an ear infection if your child doesn't have any cold symptoms or signs of pain. If you have any questions about whether a problem is an ear infection, call your pediatrician for guidance.

Preventing Ear Infections

It would be nice if you never had to deal with ear infections at all. The basics of keeping your kids healthy -- provide a nutritive diet and encourage good sleep -- apply here, as well as the following:

  • Minimize time in daycare. Daycare environments generally provide a lot of chances for children to pass germs back and forth. If you can find a smaller in-home child care arrangement or a nanny, you reduce your chances of getting bugs, including the bacteria that are often responsible for ear infections.
  • Stay up-to-date with your child's vaccinations. The vaccine Prevnar helps to prevent pneumococcus infections, which includes some types of ear infections.
  • Stay away from sources of cigarette smoke. Studies show it leads to more prevalent ear infections in kids.

Treating Ear Infections

The most common way of treating ear infections is to prescribe an antibiotic that can kill the bacteria causing the issue. Some pediatricians may prescribe antibiotics as soon as an ear infection is suspected in order to keep it from affecting any other areas. Your doctor may also recommend:

  • Pain medication. Administer an over-the-counter children's pain medication and follow the package directions carefully.
  • Xylitol. This sugar alcohol is great for preventing tooth decay, and some studies show it can help reduce the pain of an ear infection or prevent repeated infections.

If your child appears to be experiencing pain, or you have questions about ear infections and how they are treated, talk to a pediatrician.