What To Do For An Ear Infection In A Toddler

Last updated January 7th, 2021

I have experienced my toddler having an ear infection once and it almost gave me a mini heart attack. I honestly do not even want to recall the day when my toddler started crying in the middle of the night and none of us could figure out what was wrong. I had no other option but to resort to the internet and thankfully I found my answer. I hope that my tips and remedies today can help you get out of this heart-wrenching experience, and alleviate the pain your toddler is going through.

Toddlers are at high risk of getting ear infections because of their undeveloped immune system and the size and shape of the Eustachian tubes. Bacteria and viruses are responsible for ear infections and cause fluid buildup in one or both of the Eustachian tubes. These tubes are responsible for draining mucus from the middle ear into the throat. This fluid buildup hinders the tubes from draining this mucus from the middle ear. Viruses and bacteria start to grow in the buildup mucus and make pus. Most ear infections are the result of allergies, sinus infection, and cold. Toddlers have relatively shorter and more horizontal Eustachian tubes, making it easier for the bacteria and viruses to find their way into the middle ear. Tubes at this age are also much narrower and are more prone to get blocked. Sometimes the adenoids, a gland-like organ at the back of the throat get larger, inhibiting the opening of the Eustachian tubes. Ear infections are more common in winters because of the cold. You will find that toddlers with ear infections mostly have a runny nose or stuffy cough. Though ear infections are not contagious at all, the cold that is responsible for the infection can be.

Signs of an ear infection

Toddlers at their age are still unable to communicate their needs, which is why they cannot explain what is causing them pain. In such cases, it is helpful to look out for the following signs of an ear infection.

Ear Tugging

Toddlers and children tend to tug their ears more when they are suffering from an ear infection. To alleviate the pain and discomfort toddlers try to pull on their ear. Some babies try hitting their ear because they cannot locate or connect the pain to the ear.

Difficulty sleeping or lying down

During an ear infection, children feel more pain in the ear upon lying down because the pressure increases in the middle ear. This change of pressure causes more discomfort in the ear and makes it hard for them to lay down.

Ear drainage

One visible sign of an ear infection is the secretion of pus or fluid from the ear of the toddler. If you see a thick, yellowish fluid coming out of your children then that probably is the sign of a ruptured eardrum. But it is not common in children to be worried about, as a ruptured eardrum can heal on its own within a few weeks.

Unusual crying

A toddler suffering from infection is more likely to show irritation and crying. The pain due to pressure build-up and unfamiliar sensation in the ear makes them cry their pain out, but make sure to look for signs other than crying to spot an ear infection.

Hearing problem

A toddler might experience loss of hearing due to the fluid buildup in the middle ear. So you might find your toddler or baby unresponsive to sounds which is a sign of an ear infection.

High temperature

Toddler with an ear infection having a high body temperature

Your baby who’s suffering from an ear infection is also most likely to have a fever. Because the body is trying to fight the bacteria on its own. If your toddler has a temperature of 100 F or above, then make sure to look for other signs for this could be the body’s response to an ear infection.

Loss of balance

The inner ear is responsible for maintaining balance in our bodies. The buildup of fluid in the ear may disrupt this balance and cause clumsiness, and dizziness in your toddler.

Other health-related issues

The viruses and bacteria responsible for ear infection also affect the gastrointestinal tract, resulting in an upset stomach. Ear infections may cause diarrhea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. Also, ear infections may cause your toddler difficulty in chewing and swallowing due to changes in the ear pressure. But, remember to always look for other related symptoms before concluding.

Why toddlers are more likely to have an ear infection?

Toddlers are more prone to ear diseases and infections as compared to adults because

  • The Eustachian tubes in toddlers are more level and narrow and they get larger with age. This makes it hard for the fluid to get out of the ear. Also, the fluid gets blocked if the tubes are swollen or blocked with mucus, due to cold or other respiratory issues.
  • Your toddler’s immune system is not as well developed as adults, which is why the body is unable to fight the infection on its own.
  • Adenoids, which are part of the immune system and are responsible for responding to bacteria passing through the nose and mouth. The bacteria sometimes get trapped in the adenoids leading to chronic infection, which gets passed on to the middle ear through Eustachian tubes.

Can Antibiotics be used for ear infections?

According to research published in the journal of the American Medical Association 80% of the toddlers and children recovered from ear infections in about 3 days. Sometimes the bacteria responsible for ear infections become resistant to antibiotics, making it harder in the future to treat the infections.

Also, antibiotics have been found to cause diarrhea and vomiting in 15% of the toddlers. Antibiotics can also cause life-threatening allergies which is why their use is prohibited for toddlers for at least the first 48-72 hours.

American Academy of Family Physicians recommends antibiotic treatment for

  • Children of age 6 months and younger
  • Children of age 6-12 months suffering from severe symptoms

Home remedies to cure ear infections

  • Ear infections can be painful, but certain home remedies can ease the pain and help the ear recover fast.
  • Placing warm, moist compresses over the toddler’s ear for about 15-20 minutes can help alleviate the pain.
  • If the pain is severe and warm compress is not helping then try giving your toddler acetaminophen to alleviate the pain and treat fever. Make sure to concern your doctor before any medication.
  • If you do not see any fluid coming out of the toddler’s ear, it means that the eardrum is healthy. In this case, you can pour a few drops of sesame or olive oil into the infected ear. This will help increase the healing process.
  • Keep your toddler hydrated for swallowing can help in the opening of the Eustachian tube and help the trapped fluid drain out.
  • To improve the sinus drainage tilt your baby’s head a little. Instead of placing a pillow under the baby’s head place them under the mattress.
  • Homeopathic ear drops containing garlic, mullein, lavender, calendula, and olive oil can be very effective in relieving ear pain and inflammation.

How long will your toddler take to get better?

After 3 to 4 days, you should start seeing your toddler get better but if he doesn’t then visit a doctor for an antibiotic prescription. After the infection is gone the fluid will automatically disappear from the middle ear within 3-6 weeks.

Measures to prevent ear infections in toddlers

Measures to prevent ear infections in toddlers

Ear infections cannot be avoided, but by taking the following steps you can reduce the chances of your toddler suffering from one.

  • Make sure to breastfeed your baby of age 6-12 months, for the antibodies in your milk can help your baby avoid ear infections and hundreds of other underlying health issues.
  • Secondhand smoke can be the reason for repeated and severe ear infections in your toddler. Make sure that you protect your baby from it.
  • While bottle-feeding your toddler, make sure to hold your baby at a semi-upright angle, to avoid flowing back of the formula into Eustachian tubes.
  • Make sure to keep your baby away from sick family members as it can lead to colds and ear infections.
  • Keep your child immune to diseases with flu shots and pneumococcal vaccines

When to contact a doctor

The centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends concerning a doctor if your toddler:

  • Has a fever of 102 °F (39°C)
  • Discharging fluid or blood from the ear
  • Shows no signs of improvement after 3 or more days

Take away

Your toddler is at a greater risk of getting ear infections due to their underdeveloped immune system. There are certain remedies and preventive measures that you can take, but using antibiotics is only recommended in severe infection cases.

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