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Baby Ear Infection Symptoms: Spot the Signs of Ear Infection

baby ear infection symptoms
Baby ear infection symptoms can include signs of irritability, tugging on the ears, an unpleasant smell and discharge coming from the ears, and more. Learn all the signs here.

Ear infections are painful and often happen to babies before they even learn how to talk. Fortunately, learning the signs and symptoms of an ear infection could help alleviate your child’s pain.

The signs and symptoms of ear infections in babies include: 

  • Signs of irritability
    • This is a very common sign, which most parents will immediately realize that something is troubling the baby.
    • An irritated child is very restless and will neither sleep nor eat. However, remember that other ailments can also be a cause of irritability.
  • The baby cries more if put to sleep
    • The eustachian tube connects the ear to the throat and works to equalize the pressure in the middle ear.
    • In the case of an infection, there is a swelling in the eustachian tube, which does not allow equalization of pressure. The increase or buildup of pressure in the middle ear causes additional discomfort or pain.
    • When the baby is lying on its back, the pressure on the eustachian tube increases.
    • This is one of the indicators that the baby has an ear infection.
  • Fever
    • Although there are many other causes of fever, you should note that if the fever accompanies a common cold or occurs immediately after a cold, the chances are that it is due to an ear infection.
  • Keeps tugging their ears
    • When a baby starts pulling its ears, there could be something that is bothering them.
    • If the ear pulling is also accompanied by crying, the chances of ear infection are high.
    • Parents should note that tugging or pulling of the ears can also be due to discomfort caused by teething. If in doubt, it is advisable to consult a pediatrician.
  • Unpleasant smell from the baby’s ears
    • If the baby emits an unpleasant odor from the ears, that is confirmation of an ear infection.
    • The buildup of pus results in a foul and unpleasant smell.
  • Discharge from the baby’s ears
    • Discharge from the ears is another confirmation of ear infection in babies.
    • If you notice a yellowish or white liquid draining from the ears, it is a sign of eardrum perforation.
    • Eardrum perforation or a hole through which the accumulated liquid is oozing out.
    • There is no need to panic because the eardrum will heal, or the hole will close by itself after the infection heals.
  • Does not respond to sounds
    • The baby may not respond to the usual sounds.
    • This is because of the blockage in the ears, which is due to the accumulation of fluid caused by the infection in the ears.
    • The blockage does not allow the sound waves to travel to the inner ear.
    • The hearing loss may be temporary, with the baby responding and hearing normally once the blockage opens up.
  • Reduced appetite or diarrhea
    • The baby will refuse to drink milk beyond a few sips because the action of swallowing causes pain and discomfort in the ears.
    • An infection is occasionally accompanied by diarrhea or loose stools due to low immunity.

What are the treatment options for ear infections in babies?

In most cases, an ear infection clears up without any treatment within a few days. However, here are a few options for treating earache and ear infections in babies.

Home treatment

  • Experts recommend using analgesics, such as acetaminophen, for pain relief because they can ease the pain and help relieve other symptoms, such as fever.
  • You may also give Advil or Motrin (ibuprofen), though read and follow all the instructions on the label, as well as follow your doctor's advice on the dosage required for your child.

A few remedies

  • Help your child rest by arranging quiet play.
  • Request the doctor for ear drops if the child is irritable and fussy.
  • The pediatrician may prescribe an oral antibiotic or antibiotic ear drops.
  • Ice packs (wrapped in a cloth or towel) or warm compresses placed on the outer ear can help relieve pain due to infections.
    • Keep it in place for about 20 minutes on and off and repeat every few hours throughout the day. 
    • Some see relief with heat and others with ice. 
    • Some people alternate heat with cold. 
    • Make sure the packs are not too cold or too hot.
  • Keep your child upright when not sleeping, since lying down can increase pressure in the ear, which increases the pain.
  • Keep your child hydrated with extra water or other fluids.

The doctor may also prescribe

  • For children with glue ears, grommets (tubes) may be inserted to prevent fluid from accumulating in the middle ear, which helps restore the child’s hearing.
  • If your child has had recurrent ear infections, they may need a hearing test.

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