Ear infections are the number one reason that parents bring their children to the doctor—in fact, three out of four children will experience at least one ear infection before they are three years old. An ear infection, also called acute otitis media (AOM), is an inflammation of the middle ear that results when fluid builds up behind the eardrum. While anyone can get an ear infection, they are much more common in children due to their smaller anatomy and poorly developed immune systems.
Ear infections are usually caused by bacteria and typically occur after a child suffers from a sore throat or upper respiratory infection. The bacterial infection causes fluid to build up behind the eardrum, resulting in the symptoms associated with ear infections: pain in the ear, trouble sleeping, fever, fluid drainage from the ear, problems with balance, and trouble hearing. While it is very common for children to get ear infections, there are factors that can put your child more at risk. These factors include:
Children between the ages of six months and two years are at the highest risk of developing ear infections. This is largely due to the shape of their Eustachian tubes—at this age, they have a decreased ability to drain any fluid that accumulates due to bacterial infection.
- Air quality
Children exposed to tobacco smoke or air pollution have an increased risk of developing middle ear infections.
- Seasonal factors
Children are more likely to develop ear infections during the fall and winter, when influenza and colds are common. Children with allergies may also have problems with ear infections during times when there are high pollen counts.
- Child care
Children that are cared for in group child care settings are much more likely to catch the common cold or other infections, which also increases their risk of suffering from an ear infection.
If your child appears to be suffering from possible ear infection symptoms, consider seeking treatment from your pediatrician. If you would like to learn more about the causes and treatments of acute otitis media, contact the professionals at Sunrise Children’s Hospital at (702) 731-5437.