Learn About Ear Care for Your Child @ Reward Me

What Causes Ear Infections in Children & How To Avoid Them

Find out all about basic ear care for your child, infections that can happen and what’s going on between those cute little ears.

The three parts of the ear – the outer, middle and inner – are like three different organs, each with its own job and its own problems.

The outer ear consists of skin, cartilage and the ear canal. The eardrum is a thin membrane that separates the outer ear from the middle ear. The middle ear is an air-filled chamber, containing three small bones, which connects the back of the nose to the Eustachian tube. The Eustachian tube connects the middle ear to the throat and serves as a pressure-equalising valve and drain.

In babies and young children, the Eustachian tube is short and flat. By age 7, it’s larger and more upright, which improves its ability to function. Many problems in the middle ear space are related to this tube.

Middle ear infections

Normally, the Eustachian tube opens when your child swallows and yawns. Blockage of the Eustachian tube creates negative pressure, which can pull the eardrum inward. If this occurs, some clear fluid may be drawn from mucous membranes into the middle ear space, causing a fluid build-up.

This often occurs in children with upper respiratory infections or allergy symptoms. If bacteria or a virus enters the middle ear fluid through the Eustachian tube, an upper respiratory infection, called acute otitis media, may develop. This is often accompanied by symptoms of fever, ear pain, irritability and discharge.

Children are at greater risk for ear infections if they are in day-care, bottle-fed or around cigarette smoke.

Otitis media

This common ear infection usually causes some temporary hearing loss because the increase in middle ear fluid and eardrum thickening reduces the sound vibrations that travel through the ear bones. This hearing loss usually goes away once the fluid is removed surgically and after a course of eardrops and oral antibiotics.


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Wax build-up

There’s not much you need do to keep your child’s ears clean and healthy, other than cleaning the outer part of his ears with a cotton swab or a wet facecloth. Ears are self-cleaning in that the earwax traps dirt and bacteria in the ear canal, and then tiny hairs sweep the debris out.

Never insert a cotton bud or anything else into your child’s ear canal, as this pushes the wax back and stops it from coming out. Besides, you can puncture the eardrum that way. Earwax build-up can become a problem when earwax accumulates faster than the body can expel it. To remove the earwax, rather use ear drops. Keep your child still for about five minutes before turning him over and letting the liquid and softened wax drip out. You may need to do this while he’s asleep.

The doctor can also flush out your child’s ear with warm liquid. Earwax gets denser whenever a person is dehydrated, so make sure your child gets plenty of fluids.

The ear canal should stay as dry as possible. If moisture sits there for too long, it can erode the protective lining, allowing bacteria and fungi to take over. The lining can also be damaged if your child pokes something in his ear or scratches inside it. Children who suffer from skin conditions like eczema or dermatitis, are more susceptible to outer ear infections. Symptoms are redness and scaling in the entrance of the ear, or a yellow, watery, or smelly discharge.

“Ears are self-cleaning in that the earwax traps dirt and bacteria in the ear canal, and then tiny hairs sweep the debris out.”

Also, check out how to teach your child to brush their teeth here with this handy guide.

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