Ear infection middle ear infection
5 Ways To Prevent Middle Ear Infections In Children, As Recommended By An ENT Specialist
December 10, 2021
Middle ear infections, referred to as otitis media, are highly common in young children between the ages of 6 months and 3 years old. Most ear infections begin as simple ailments such as the common cold.
Young children are more prone to ear infections as they have immature eustachian tubes that connect the middle ear to the back part of the nose. They help to protect the middle ear from bacteria and viruses while equalising pressure in the middle ear with that of the outside environment. In children, the eustachian tubes are shorter and more horizontally oriented. These configurations allow bacteria and viruses to get into the middle ear more easily. In addition, a child’s immune system is still developing and thus, may not be able to fight off bacteria and common viruses.
Common symptoms of middle ear infections include ear pain, loss of hearing, irritability, fever of unknown origin, trouble sleeping and frequent ear tugging. If the symptoms become worse or persist, it is advisable to bring your child to an ENT Specialist who is comfortable with handling and treating young children.
But as the adage goes, prevention is better than cure. So, here are four ways to help prevent ear infections in children, as recommended by Dr Gan Eng Cern, an ENT Specialist in Singapore.
1. Breastfeed your young ones
During the first 6 to 12 months of life, try breastfeeding your child as much as possible. Antibodies in breastmilk help children build strong immunity and fight off ailments, which includes reducing the occurrences of ear infections. If breastfeeding is not an option for you, bottle-feeding your child in an upright, sitting position may help as feeding in the horizontal position can cause fluid to flow back up into the Eustachian tube from the back of the nose to the middle ear, causing ear infections.
2. Keep children away from second-hand tobacco smoke
Smoking is bad for anyone’s health. But did you know that second-hand smoke can affect not only you but also your child? When your child passes by or sits next to someone who is smoking, second-hand smoke affects their noses, lungs and ears. Passive smoking can increase the frequency and the severity of ear infections, as the tubes in the ear become inflamed and block up. It can also cause more frequent and severe asthma attacks as well as respiratory infections. It is also recommended to avoid other forms of air pollution too.
3. Limit the use of a pacifier
Studies have shown that the use of pacifiers can lead to a higher risk of ear infections. Limit pacifier usage to a brief period (e.g. when the infant is falling asleep) and wean your baby off the pacifier early if possible to reduce the risk of middle ear infections.
4. Keep an eye on hygiene
Most ENT Specialists would also tell you the importance of hygiene if you ever bring your child to one because of an ear infection. Washing your child’s hands as well as your own regularly with soap and water is vital to prevent the spread of germs, thus, reducing the chances of your child catching a cold or the flu. Clean up your child’s surroundings often too, as germs and bacteria thrive in dirty and dusty areas. Make sure to implement good hygiene practices and wash or wipe down the things your child uses frequently.
5. Control nose allergies
Nose allergies (medically known as Allergic Rhinitis) are very common in children and the mucous and inflammation in the nose can cause eustachian tube blockage. This can result in viral or bacterial infection of the middle ear. To control nasal allergies, it is important to keep the house clean by washing the bed sheets and pillowcases regularly, minimising clutter and avoiding placing soft toys near children with sensitive noses. The use of antihistamines and nasal steroid sprays may be necessary for some children.
Treatment for middle ear infections
Most middle ear infections resolve on their own. However, it is important to ensure that your child’s symptoms are adequately controlled with pain relievers and medications to keep his or her fever under control. If your child’s symptoms do not improve, a visit to the general practitioner is necessary. The treatment of middle ear infections may involve oral antibiotics, pain relievers, fever medications and nasal decongestants.
If your child has trouble hearing, is experiencing learning difficulties in school (sometimes may present as delays in speech and language development) or has frequent ear infections, a visit to an ENT specialist in Singapore is recommended.
For frequent middle ear infections or fluid collection in the middle ear (otitis media with effusion) that fails to resolve with medications, the child may need a ventilation tube placed on the eardrum. This helps to maintain normal air pressure and assist fluid drainage from the middle ear. Bring your child to an ENT clinic in Singapore as soon as possible to prevent their condition from worsening – contact us to make an appointment.
Medically reviewed by Dr Gan Eng Cern