Ear infections are extremely common in children. In fact, according to one study, “Acute otitis media affects over 80% of children before their third birthday and 30 to 45% of these children have suffered two or more episodes.”
In this post, we review the different types of ear infections as well as how to prevent them.
Types of Ear Infections
There are four general types of ear infections:
- Acute otitis media (AOM). Also known as a middle ear infection, AOM is caused by fluid being trapped in the middle ear due to allergies or a respiratory infection.
- Otitis media with effusion (OME). This type of infection also involves fluid being trapped in the middle ear but without an obvious triggering condition.
- Chronic otitis media. There are several sub-types of chronic otitis media, but all involve the infection returning frequently or not clearing.
- Otitis externa. This condition is more commonly referred to as swimmer’s ear. It is an infection of the ear canal, usually due to water becoming trapped and growing bacteria.
How to Prevent Ear Infections in Children
Some of the best ways you can reduce your child’s risk of an ear infection are:
- Getting them vaccinated. Vaccinations can help prevent the conditions that lead to ear infections; therefore, getting your child all recommended vaccines is a good prevention.
- Breastfeeding. Breast milk contains antibodies that can protect your baby against illness, even ear infections. If you are able, we recommend breastfeeding your baby for at least the first six months of their life.
- Bottle feed at an upright angle. If you decide not to breastfeed, another way you can help prevent an ear infection is to bottle feed at an angle, so their head is higher than their stomach. This will prevent fluids, including formula, from flowing into the middle ear. Note: Never use a pillow to prop up the bottle or allow your baby to take the bottle to bed.
- Stop pacifier use between six and 12 months. Pacifier use is associated with an increased risk of ear infections, as the sucking motion may inhibit proper Eustachian tube function.
- Washing their hands. Stop the spread of germs that cause ear infections by washing yours and your child’s hands often, especially after using the bathroom, before preparing or eating food, after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose and after playing at Washington Park Playground.
- Avoid smoking. Nobody in your household should smoke, as exposure to secondhand smoke also increases the risk of ear infections.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call Albany ENT & Allergy Services today.