An ear infection is a common condition which although also affect adults, is very much common in children. Attributable to these are factors such as the Eustachian tubes of children being smaller than that of adults and the effectiveness of their immune system which at a developing stage is weaker and often unable to fight infections as much. (Source)
According to a body of research, estimates are that 75% of children would have at least had one ear infection before the age of 3. Though ear infections are not necessarily life-threatening, severe cases can lead to complete deafness if not treated properly. That said, most cases of ear infections in children however, tend to either heal or improve drastically without treatment.
What is an Ear Infection?
To simply put, an ear infection can be defined as a bacterial and/or viral infection of the inner, middle or outer part/layer of the ear. It is usually characterized with inflammation on the affected part as well as a gradual accumulation of fluids in the ear. Ear infections are usually painful and this is as a result of the increased pressure on the ear drums caused by the inflammation and excess buildup of fluids in the ear.
What are the Types of Ear Infections?
There are different types of ear infection all of which have peculiar symptoms. Below are examples of some of the common types of ear infections:
- Acute Otitis media (AOM): Of the three types, this is usually the most common type of ear infection. It often is characterized with swellings in the middle ear which is the part usually affected and the presence of fluids trapped behind the ear drums. It sometimes also causes fever.
- Otitis media with effusions (OME): This usually occur when fluids are still present in the eardrums even after a completed episode of ear infection and the fluids continually return even without bacterial or viral infection. This predisposes children to new infections and could also impact on their hearing.
- Chronic otitis infusions (COI): This is quite similar to the otitis with effusions and it occurs when fluids remain in the ear for a long time and is recurrent.
Symptoms of Ear Infection
For children, the symptoms experienced with ear infections are usually more compared to that seen in adults. Just In case your child is still pretty young and unable to utter the words “My ear hurts”, below are a few common signs you can look out for:
- Difficulty sleeping.
- Trouble hearing
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of balance
- Crying more frequently
Risk Factors of Ear Infection
- Age: As earlier established, the anatomy of children’s ear (shape of the Eustachian tubes) and their weak immune system predisposes them more to ear infections.
- Children that are cared for in groups tend to be more susceptible to ear infections and even colds as opposed to children cared for at home.
- Exposure to polluted air (tobacco smoke) can significantly increase the risk of one developing a ear infection.
- Infant feeding Babes who her breast fed tend to be less likely to develop ear infections as compared against babies that fed from/with bottles.
Preventing Ear Infection
Currently, the best possible ways to prevent ear infection is to completely lower/lessen the risk factors of ear infections. A few suggestions on what you can do to achieve this include:
- Vaccinate your child or children against it as children who are vaccinated are less likely to get ear infections.
- Maintain good or healthy hygiene: This will entail washings your hands and that of your children’s regularly to help avoid the spread of germs to your children.
- Frequent exposure to polluted air increases a child’s risk of getting an ear infection. Thus, as much as possible, avoid exposure to second-hand smoke.
- Breastfeed your baby as this significantly helps in boosting their immune system.
- Prevent your child from playing with children playing with sick children.