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Preventing Ear Infections in Young Children

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Preventing Ear Infections in Young Children

Jul 25, 2016

Some children are just prone to ear infections. How can you prevent your child from getting one? And when is it time for to visit a physician? While they can't always be prevented, there are tips to minimizing the occurrence of ear infections. Pediatrician Dr. Cindy Gellner shares how to best prevent infections in the ear and what to do if your child becomes infected.

Episode Transcript

Dr. Gellner: Your child has yet another ear infection. How can you prevent ear infections and when is it time to see the specialist? Those are the big questions on today's Scope. I'm Dr. Cindy Gellner.

Announcer: Keep your kids healthy and happy. You are not entering "The Healthy Kid Zone" with Dr. Cindy Gellner on The Scope.

Dr. Gellner: I get asked a lot about how ear infections can be prevented. Well, unfortunately, they can't entirely be prevented. Genetics plays a really big role here. If a sibling or parent had a lot of ear infections, there's a good chance it's going to run in the family. But don't despair. There are some tips to minimizing the possibly inevitable.

Protect your child from secondhand tobacco smoke. Kids shouldn't be around smokers anyways. It's really bad for their noses, lungs, ears, actually, every part of them. Passive smoking increases the frequency and the severity of ear infections. So that's one way you can minimize ear infections.

Another way is to reduce your child's exposure to colds during the first year of life. I know, yeah, right. I'm with you there. It's hard when there are older siblings in the home, or parents need to work and daycare is the only option. But most ear infections do start with a cold. In this case, you do the best you can. Most daycares do have separate infant rooms to keep the littlest ones away from the older, germier kids.

You can also breastfeed your baby during the first six to 12 months of life. Antibodies in breast milk reduce the rate of ear infections. For some women, this isn't always possible. But if you are able to get your baby any breastmilk, even the colostrum that comes in shortly after birth, you will give your baby an immune system boost.

Make sure you give your child all the recommended immunizations. The Haemophilus influenzae B, or HIB vaccine, and the pneumococcal 13, or Prevnar vaccine, will protect your child from the most common types of bacteria that cause ear infections.

If you are bottle-feeding your baby, avoid bottle propping. Hold your baby with the head of your baby higher than the stomach. Feeding your baby with them in the horizontal position can cause whatever you're feeding them to flow back up into the Eustachian tube, which is the tube that connects the back of the throat to the middle ear. And then that fluid goes back up into the middle ear. Allowing an infant to hold his or her own bottle can also cause the same problem.

Check to see if your infant has allergies. I know, not the kind you expect in the older kids with the runny nose, and the sneezing, and things like that. But your infant, if they always have a really runny nose, or really bad eczema, or a bloody bowel movement, a milk allergy may be the problem. Kids older than two are more likely to have seasonal allergies, so watch for those as well. Again, in those kids, the ear infections can be triggered by allergies.

Finally, check for snoring. If your toddler snores like an adult every night, or breathes through their mouth, never closing their mouth except to eat, they may have large adenoids. These are the glands that sit on top of the tonsils and behind the nose. Large adenoids can lead to ear infections by blocking those Eustachian tubes and not letting them drain.

If your child has back-to-back ear infections, more than six ear infections in a 12-month period, or you think their adenoids may be the issue, then it's time to get a referral to the ear, nose, and throat specialist. They will be able to tell you if your child does need ear tubes and they will be the ones to do the surgery.

Announcer: Keep your kids healthy and happy. You are now entering "The Healthy Kid Zone" with Dr. Cindy Gellner on The Scope.