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Identifying and Preventing Childhood Ear Infections

Identifying and Preventing Childhood Ear Infections

By Intermountain Healthcare

Dec 8, 2017

Updated Nov 17, 2023

5 min read

mom and toddler

Kids are always getting sick, and it’s hard to know the difference between a common cold and an ear infection. Knowing how to recognize and prevent ear infections will help your child stay healthy and avoid unnecessary trips to the doctor.

What is an ear infection?

“Ear infections are the result of fluid buildup in the middle ear, and often accompany the common cold,” says Carly Sorenson, DO, a pediatrician at the Central Orem Clinic. “If your child has two or more common symptoms, there may be a chance it’s an ear infection.”

What are the symptoms?

Your child may experience:

  • Ear pain
  • Crying more than you’d expect with a cold
  • Fever
  • Fluid coming out of the ear
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Hard time maintaining balance
  • Pulling or tugging on the ears AND the child seems sick

Will the ear infection go away on its own? Does my child need to see a pediatrician?

Dr. Sorenson says, “Take your child to the doctor if you suspect an ear infection. Many ear infections will go away on their own, but depending on your child’s age and symptoms, the doctor may prescribe an antibiotic.” Before seeing a physician, you can help ease the pain with children’s pain reliever, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, or by applying a warm compress to the outside of the ear.

How can allergies cause ear infections?

Allergies can lead to inflammation in the ear and can stimulate ear infections. Don’t let your child’s allergies go unchecked. By boosting their immune system and protecting them from illness, you can help prevent ear infections.

How can I prevent ear infections?

  1. Practice good hand hygiene
  2. Wash your hands and your child’s hands often
  3. Never put your child to bed with a bottle or sippy cup
  4. Choose a daycare with fewer than six children in a room
  5. Avoid cigarette smoke (smoke irritates the child’s nasal passage)
  6. Update immunizations and get annual flu shots
  7. Stop giving children a pacifier after their first birthday