Ear infections are one of the most common illnesses a young child gets. They're caused by bacteria or a virus that leads to a buildup of fluid behind the child's eardrum. This then acts as a perfect breeding ground for germs.
There is nothing more distressing to a parent than seeing their child upset. With babies, this is made worse by their inability to tell you just what's ailing them, making you feel helpless.
This guide will tell you what to look out for if you suspect an ear infection is the cause of your child's distress.
The Most Common Telltale Signs
Your baby may not be able to articulate the pain they're feeling, but they will almost certainly show signs that you can look for. Not all infants will show all the signs, but more than a few is often enough to suggest that something is not right.
A baby who is off their food and crying a lot more than usual is often the first indicator that something is amiss. Ear infections can make swallowing painful, putting your child off eating after a few mouthfuls. Your baby may also be sleeping poorly due to the pain they're feeling. Ear infections can also sometimes cause diarrhea in babies, as the bacteria can affect the gastrointestinal tract.
Some babies will have a temperature, which indicates that their body is fighting an infection. If you notice that your baby is grabbing or pulling on their ear, there is a good chance that this is an ear problem, especially when presented with other signs.
Examine the ear gently to see if you can see any yellow or white fluid inside. Fluid in the ear is a definite sign of an ear infection and can also indicate a hole in the eardrum. A hole in the eardrum is not as scary as it sounds and will usually need no treatment, as it will heal on its own.
As gross as it may seem, you should have a sniff at your baby's ear. The bacteria can cause an unpleasant smell that is a confirmed symptom of infection
So, It's an Ear Infection -- What Next?
For most babies, a trip to the doctor will suffice. However, if your child has frequent ear infections, you should ask to be referred to paediatric ENT specialist to rule out any underlying cause. The specialist will then refer you to an ENT surgeon if need be.