Baby’s ear in­fec­tion could af­fect her fu­ture grades

Like colds and coughs, ear in­fec­tions are a rite of pas­sage for ev­ery child. EVELINE GAN finds out what you should know about this con­di­tion.

Young Parents (Singapore) - - FRONT PAGE -

1Hear hear, the warn­ing signs.

Do you no­tice your lit­tle one scratch­ing or hit­ting her ears? She may be too young to tell you that they are caus­ing her pain.

She could be feel­ing the pres­sure caused by an in­fec­tion or uid build-up in the ears, says Dr Lynne Lim, a se­nior con­sul­tant Ear, Nose and Throat sur­geon at Mount El­iz­a­beth Med­i­cal Cen­tre.

She may also ap­pear un­steady while crawl­ing, sit­ting up or walk­ing. Watch for fever, crank­i­ness or dis­charge from the ears, adds Dr Chris­telle Tan, a spe­cial­ist in pae­di­atrics at Rafes Spe­cial­ists at Rafes Hol­land V.

Hear­ing prob­lems may be an­other tell­tale sign. For ex­am­ple, your baby may be less re­spon­sive to sounds that nor­mally star­tle her or cause her to turn around, Dr Tan says.

If the in­fec­tion oc­curs only on one side, she may turn to­wards the op­po­site side when you call her be­cause the sound would ap­pear louder in the ear with nor­mal hear­ing, she adds.

But these symp­toms aren’t al­ways ob­vi­ous, espe­cially if the in­fec­tion is mild. “Most cases of uid trapped in the mid­dle ear arise from a cold or u and it may not be painful. Your child may not com­plain of any hear­ing prob­lem, so it may be missed,” Dr Lim says.

2 It usu­ally oc­curs af­ter a bout of cold or flu.

In most kids, ear in­fec­tions typ­i­cally oc­cur when uid gets trapped in the mid­dle ear (the part of the ear lo­cated be­hind the eardrum) and is in­fected by germs.

This can hap­pen when the Eus­tachian tube (the nar­row pas­sage­way con­nect­ing the back of the nose and throat to the mid­dle ear) be­comes blocked – for ex­am­ple, when your lit­tle one has a cold, u or an un­treated nasal al­lergy. In a March 2016 study pub­lished in

Pe­di­atrics, re­searchers fol­lowed 300 ba­bies and found that nearly ev­ery ear in­fec­tion di­ag­nosed man­i­fested af­ter a bout of the com­mon cold.

There are other fac­tors that can raise your lit­tle one’s risk, such as drink­ing from a bot­tle or sippy cup while ly­ing down, reux is­sues or ex­po­sure to sec­ond-hand smoke, ex­perts say.

It may also oc­cur in the outer ear canal when small ob­jects as well as in­fected wa­ter and de­bris (from swim­ming in dirty wa­ter, for ex­am­ple) get trapped in there, or when you clean your baby’s ear canal too ag­gres­sively, Dr Lim says.

3 The younger your child, the more vul­ner­a­ble she is.

Ear in­fec­tions are gen­er­ally more com­mon be­tween the ages of one and six, peak­ing in the rst two years of life, Dr Lim says.

By the age of three, about two thirds of all chil­dren would have suf­fered at least one bout of it, Dr Tan adds.

Why are they so com­mon in ba­bies and tod­dlers? Com­pared to adults, younger kids have a shorter, nar­rower and more hor­i­zon­tal Eus­tachian tube. This makes it eas­ier for in­fec­tions from the throat to spread to the ear, as well as more vul­ner­a­ble to block­age, Dr Tan ex­plains.

In ad­di­tion, your lit­tle one’s im­mune sys­tem is still de­vel­op­ing and she will have a tougher time fend­ing off nasty germs com­pared to big kids and adults.

4 Un­for­tu­nately, it tends to come back.

Com­ing down with an oc­ca­sional ear in­fec­tion is chal­leng­ing enough, but some kids suf­fer from re­peated in­fec­tions up to four times a year. It typ­i­cally takes one to three months to clear, Dr Lim says, so, tech­ni­cally, it is pos­si­ble for your kid to nurse ear in­fec­tions all year round.

Thank­fully, there’s light at the end of the tun­nel. Be­yond the age of six, re­cur­rent episodes tend to be less com­mon, Dr Tan says.

5It could af­fect hear­ing, speech and even school per­for­mance.

If your baby has a se­vere ear in­fec­tion, or is not get­ting bet­ter and has a high fever, her doc­tor may start her on an­tibi­otics.

Un­treated in­fec­tions can af­fect your baby’s hear­ing de­vel­op­ment, which is why it is im­por­tant to get it treated promptly, Dr Lim says. Stud­ies show that even pe­ri­odic or mild hear­ing loss can lead to speech de­lays that af­fect school per­for­mance later in life.

“When left un­treated, re­cur­ring ear in­fec­tions would mean the child may not be hear­ing well in that en­tire year, which has been shown to af­fect the de­vel­op­ment of the hear­ing brain,” Dr Lim says.

“Some­times, af­ter treat­ment, the child may con­tinue to have au­di­tory hear­ing is­sues that make her ap­pear inat­ten­tive. She hears sound, but her brain does not process the in­for­ma­tion,” she adds.

In rare cases, leav­ing a se­vere ear in­fec­tion un­treated might even lead to a brain in­fec­tion.

6 Ditch those ear picks and cot­ton buds.

Re­frain from “clean­ing out” your lit­tle one’s ears – it’s not nec­es­sary as they’re nat­u­rally self-clean­ing. Dig­ging your baby’s nar­row ear canal us­ing an ear pick or cot­ton bud can push de­bris and wax far­ther in, trau­ma­tis­ing the skin and caus­ing an in­fec­tion to set in, Dr Lim warns.

Like­wise, dirty bath or pool wa­ter can cause an in­fec­tion when it is trapped in the ear canal. If wa­ter gets into your baby’s ear, turn her on her side and lightly mas­sage the front of the ear so that the wa­ter ows out of the ear canal, Dr Lim ad­vises.

7 Breast­feed and vac­ci­nate to pre­vent ear in­fec­tions.

In the March 2016 Pe­di­atrics study, ba­bies who were ex­clu­sively breast­fed for at least six months were less likely to de­velop an ear in­fec­tion.

An­other ef­fec­tive mode of pro­tec­tion is to vac­ci­nate your child against bugs that can cause ear in­fec­tions, Dr Tan says. They in­clude: The pneu­mo­coc­cal vac­cine, com­monly given at the age of two to three months. The haemophilus inuen­zae vac­ci­na­tion, given as a com­bi­na­tion vac­cine in three pri­mary doses from the age of six weeks to six months. The inuenza vac­cine, an op­tional vac­cine that can be given from the age of six months. Other mea­sures to lower Baby’s risk of get­ting ear in­fec­tions in­clude: Avoid­ing sec­ond-hand cig­a­rette smoke. Avoid­ing let­ting your baby drink from a bot­tle or sippy cup while ly­ing down. Lim­it­ing pacier use in the rst six months. As much as pos­si­ble, lim­it­ing your child’s ex­po­sure to other sick chil­dren.

Re­frain from clean­ing out” your lit­tle one’s ears - it’s not nec­es­sary as they’re nat­u­rally self-clean­ing.

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