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Ear infections cause more pediatric visits each year than anything else. Also known as otitis media, they affect half of children before their first birthday and nearly 20% of children ages one to seven. The symptoms of an ear infection include an earache, fever, ringing in the ear, irritability, vomiting, and diarrhea. Babies may pull or rub their ears or cry for long period of time when they have an ear infection.

CAUSES

Ear infections often begin with colds or respiratory infections. The infection travels from the nose to the Eustachian tube. Bacteria from food can also get to the ear from the throat. The Eustachian tubes become blocked by the infection, causing fluids to become trapped in the middle ear cavity. Children experience ear infections more frequently because the Eustachian tubes in children are much shorter that those in adults. Heredity can also affect the shape of the Eustachian tube which would make someone more susceptible to ear infections.

RISK FACTORS IN INFANTS

Formula feeding
People smoking around the baby
Allergies
Exposure to other children
Long term stress or family discord

PREVENTION

1. Breast feeding is a good way to prevent infections due to the immune-building agents in breast milk.

2. Feed your baby upright, and never put him or her to bed with a bottle.

3. Use disposable plastic bottle liners that collapse.

4. Wash and sterilize nipples and bottles before use.

TREATMENT

Any child with symptoms of an ear infections should be seen by a pediatrician because of the danger of damage to the ears and hearing loss if the infection is not treated. Your doctor will most likely prescribe antibiotics to fight the infection. Occasionally all the fluid does not drain from the middle ear once the infection is gone. This is known as serous otitis media and can lead to recurrent ear infections. When this occurs, tubes may be put into a child's ear to help the fluid drain.