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Ouch Mom, My Ear Hurts! Dealing with Ear Infections in Children

Cold weather and more time indoors means your child is more likely to catch a cold or contract the flu. However, while many parents take precautions against cold and flu season, most don't think about another common childhood illness that affects many kids - ear infections. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), ear infections in children are the most common bacterial illness that requires treatment with antibacterial agents. An inflammation of the middle ear is the most common affliction for children with ear infections.

The main cause of an ear infection in a child is usually a build-up of fluid in the Eustachian tube. These tubes can become easily clogged, especially in infants and toddlers. When this happens, germs and bacteria can thrive and cause an infection in your little one's ear. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) offers a list of the most common causes of ear infections, including:

  • Colds and sinus infections
  • Allergies
  • Tobacco smoke or other irritants
  • Infected or overgrown adenoids
  • Excess mucus and saliva produced during teething
  • Some children have a higher risk of getting ear infections. Risk factors listed by the NIH include:

  • Not being breastfed
  • Recent ear infection
  • Recent illness of any type
  • Attending a group day care
  • Pacifier use
  • Genetic factors
  • Changes in altitude or climate
  • Cold climate
  • Also, if your child spends a lot of time drinking from a sippy cup or bottle while on his back, be aware that this may put him at a higher risk of developing an ear infection.

    Infections occur most often in the winter. Ear infections are not contagious, but the common cold or other illnesses that are often spread among children can sometimes be the cause. According to the AAP, almost 90% of children suffer from an ear infection at least once before school age, usually between six months and four years of age.



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