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Does My Baby Have An Ear Infection?

By Lynn L’Hote

Does My Baby Have An Ear Infection?

How would you know if your baby develops an ear infection, what experts call otitis media? 2 out of 3 kiddos will have at least 1 before they’re 2 years old.

After a cold or respiratory infection, middle ear infections can sometimes develop. Since your baby can’t really tell you what hurts, it’s up to you to play detective.
Ear infections can be viral or bacterial, and infants are more likely to develop them because of how their ear is structured. Your baby’s Eustachian tube connects her middle ear to the back of her nose, and helps drain fluid. Because it’s small and lies more flat than angled, fluid may not drain well, allowing bacteria to grow.

Is it an ear infection?

Only her healthcare provider can look into her ears and make an accurate diagnosis. You can help relieve ear pain by applying a warm compress to the affected ear and giving her an infant-specific pain reliever like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) for comfort. Ask your provider for the infant dosing chart since these OTC pain relievers are dosed by weight and age.Your care provider may recommend a “watch and wait” approach if symptoms are mild as 80% of cases will get better on their own. But if your baby is 6 months old or younger, antibiotics should be used to prevent a more serious infection. If your baby is younger than age 2, the AAP recommends treating diagnoses of otitis media with antibiotics to prevent a developing infection from worsening. Amoxicillin is usually the first antibiotic of choice unless your baby is allergic to penicillin. Annual flu shots can also help prevent illness that can lead to ear infections and are recommended.

Ear infection

Ear infections can be particularly painful. Your baby may be developing or have an ear infection if you see any of these signs:

  • Drainage from her ear
  • Fever of 100.4+
  • Fussiness or crying during feedings
  • Wakes at night, especially after a cold

Ear infection risks

Your baby may be more prone to ear infections if she:

  • Has had a recent cold or respiratory infection
  • Is around smokers or secondhand smoke
  • Uses a pacifier
  • Was born premature
  • Is a boy—male infants get more ear infections
  • Attends a group daycare
  • Has a family history of ear infections

Your Baby’s Ear

Three distinct parts make up your baby’s ear, with the thin eardrum between the outer and middle ear:

  • Outer ear canal
  • Middle ear, where infections can develop
  • Inner ear, where baby’s center of balance is


Lynn L’Hote is a nurse in Louisiana.

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