How can I help prevent ear infections in my child?

Some children are prone to developing many ear infections; to reduce your child’s risk of a recurrence, make sure he or she is not exposed to secondhand smoke. Additionally, never put young children to bed with a bottle. In severe cases, the doctor might recommend surgical intervention. This involves temporarily placing a small tube in the eardrum to prevent fluid accumulation.

Ear infections occur when the middle ear becomes inflamed, fluid builds up behind the eardrum and bacteria accumulate. Children in general are particularly prone.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
If your child has recurring ear infections, you'll want to talk to your doc about it. Your child may need to have tubes surgically inserted to help drain fluid from the ear and reduce infections. Repeated ear infections are associated with fluctuating hearing loss. You can cut the risk of infections by breast feeding and getting the pneumococcal and other childhood vaccinations, as well as limiting exposure to tobacco smoke. Firsthand, secondhand, thirdhand -- all hands off those cigarettes!
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Here are some tips on how to prevent middle ear infections in your child:
  • Keep your child away from cigarette smoke. Middle ear infections are more common in children exposed to cigarette smoke.
  • Do not prop up a baby's bottle. Children who are bottle-fed while lying flat are more prone to middle ear infections. Hold your child upright during feeding.
  • Consider stopping pacifier use.
  • Decrease infection exposure by enrolling your child in a day care program that has small classes or avoiding day care altogether.
Dania J. Lindenberg, MD
While it's not possible to prevent your child from ever getting an ear infection, there are some things you can do to reduce the risk:
  • Be sure your child's vaccinations are current. One vaccine in particular, the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine series (Prevnar), has been shown to reduce ear infections.
  • Wash your hands. Frequent hand washing by both you and your child will help prevent passing around upper respiratory illnesses that can increase risk of ear infections.
  • Breastfeed. Antibodies in breast milk can help protect infants from various types of illnesses, including ear infections.
  • Don't allow bottles at bedtime. When infants drink milk from a bottle in bed, the milk can pool in their throat and enter the eustachian tube, which encourages bacterial growth.
  • Quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke. Tobacco smoke irritates the eustachian tubes and makes it harder for the ear to clear out mucus.
  • Wean your child off pacifiers. Sucking on a pacifier may result in less-effective eustachian tube function. Pacifiers can also expose your child to viruses and bacteria that cause ear infections.
  • Enroll your child in a smaller daycare center. Large daycare centers mean more exposure to upper respiratory illnesses, which in turn can mean greater incidence of ear infections.

Continue Learning about Middle Ear Infection in Children

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When Should I Take a Child to the Doctor for an Ear Infection?
When Should I Take a Child to the Doctor for an Ear Infection?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.