The easiest way to tell if your baby might have an ear infection (or any other illness, for that matter) is by observing a change in his mood. If your baby turns fussy, or starts crying more than usual, be on the lookout for a problem. If he develops a fever (whether slight or high) you have another big clue. Ear infections tend to strike after a common cold or sinus infection, so keep that in mind too.
You may also notice the following symptoms:
Germs like to grow in dark, warm, wet places, so a fluid-filled middle ear is the perfect breeding ground. As the infection gets worse, the inflammation in and behind the eardrum also tends to worsen, making the condition more painful. Fever may develop as your baby’s body attempts to fight the infection. The medical term for this condition – a painfully inflamed middle ear, an accumulation of fluid, a red eardrum, and occasionally a fever. A pacifier may increase the risk of middle ear infections in babies and young children. In one study, the incidence of ear infections was 33 percent lower in babies who didn’t use pacifiers.
Normally any fluid that enters this area leaves pretty quickly through the eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear to the back of the nose and throat. But if the eustachian tube is blocked – as often happens during colds, sinus infections, even allergies, the fluid gets trapped in the middle ear.Ear infections are the second most commonly diagnosed illness in children (after the common cold). About half of babies have at least one ear infection by the time they turn 1 year old, and most have had at least one ear infection by their third birthday. An ear infection can be caused by bacteria or a virus. It happens when fluid builds up in the area behind your baby’s eardrum and then becomes infected.
Babies are particularly susceptible to ear infections because they have short (about 1/2 inch), horizontal eustachian tubes. As children grow to adulthood, their tubes triple in length and become more vertical, so fluid can drain more easily
See the doctor at the first sign of an ear infection. The doctor will need to look in your baby’s ear with an instrument called an otoscope. An eardrum that’s red, bulging, and possibly draining is probably infected.
The doctor may also check whether the eardrum moves in response to a device called a pneumatic otoscope, which releases a brief puff of air into the ear. If it’s not moving, that’s another indication that fluid is collecting in the middle ear and may be infected.