Saturday, January 5, 2008

Babies Ear Infection

What causes ear infections?

An ear infection results when fluid and bacteria build up in the area around your baby's eardrum. Normally any fluid that enters this area leaves pretty quickly through the Eustachian tube (which connects the middle ear to the back of the nose and throat) when your baby yawns or swallows. But if the Eustachian tube is blocked — common during colds, sinus infections, even allergy season — it traps the fluid in the middle ear. Bacteria like to grow in dark, warm, wet places, so a fluid-filled ear becomes the perfect breeding ground. As the infection worsens, so does the swelling in and around the eardrum, and, as a result, the pain. Fever develops as your baby's body attempts to fight the infection.

Babies are particularly susceptible to ear infections because their Eustachian tubes are short (about 1/2 inch) and horizontal. As they grow to adulthood, the tube triples in length to 1 1/2 inches and become more vertical, so fluid can drain more easily. Ear infections are one of the most common childhood illnesses. Although there are no statistics on how many babies get them, the American Academy of Pediatrics expects that most children will have gotten at least one ear infection by the time they turn 3.

Your child may have an ear infection if she:
Complains of ear pain
Does not seem to hear normally
Pulls on her ear
Has a fever (above 100.4° F)
Cries during feeding

You may be able to help prevent some ear infections in your baby by:

Breastfeeding your baby. Breastmilk contains antibodies that help protect a baby from many infections, including those that can cause ear infections.
Holding your baby in a partially upright position during bottle-feeding. This helps prevent formula from dripping into the eustachian tubes. Avoid keeping your baby’s bottle in the crib after feeding.
Keeping your baby or young child away from cigarette smoke. Smoke appears to increase the risk of ear, as well as respiratory, infections. Minimizing dust in the home also may help.
Making sure your baby gets all the recommended immunizations. The pneumococcal vaccine may help prevent ear infections caused by certain bacteria.