How to spot. . . an ear infection
With a little knowledge, you’ll learn how to deal with common illnesses and conditions What is it?
Ear infections occur when bacteria or a virus get inside the middle ear. Paediatrician and M&B expert Dr Scott Dunlop says ear infections can also occur when ear fluid becomes infected, causing discomfort.
What are the symptoms?
Signs that your baby might have an ear infection include trouble sleeping or eating, and a fever. “It can be painful and is a common cause of sleepless nights,” Scott explains. Your baby may also be more tearful than usual. Another common sign that babies have an ear infection is if they pull or tug at the infected ear, or pull away from the breast during a feed, as the sucking action may hurt the ear.
What causes it?
The Eustachian tube, which connects the ears, throat and nose, is short in babies and young children, allowing bacteria to enter. Little ones are also more prone to ear infections because they are still building up their immune systems. “Since viruses are the usual cause, ear infections are common in childhood,” Scott says. “The ears connect to the throat by the Eustachian tube, so colds and sore throats can affect ears.”
What can you do?
Breastfeeding your baby beyond four months can help reduce the frequency of ear infections by boosting bub’s immunity. Scott advises washing your hands frequently to prevent bacteria from spreading. To ease bub’s discomfort, the Better Health Channel suggests using over-the-counter painkillers (such as paracetamol or ibuprofen). Make sure to follow the instructions on the packet.
When to see your GP?
Make an appointment to see your GP if the pain persists for more than two days. “Some mild ear infections clear up without antibiotics, so you may not be prescribed anything,” Scott says. “If there’s a concern about the inner fluid or hearing, your GP will usually refer you to an ENT (ears, nose and throat) specialist.” However, most babies and young children will outgrow ear infections as their Eustachian tube grows longer and narrower.
Dreambaby Medicine Set, $7.95 Vicks Fever Insight thermometer, $23.95