Have you ever had your baby unable to settle in the middle of the night? You have perhaps followed all the steps that normally work yet your baby just will not settle. Having just gone through a few ear infections with our youngest baby girl, and the most recent it took a week to even spot!, I wanted to share my experiences to make sure other parents have awareness over the ear infection symptoms that might be occurring with your baby.
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Why do babies get ear infections more easily than adults?
It’s extremely common for children aged between six months and 2 years old to have ear infections, and some children are definitely more prone to them than others due to their anatomy so its definitely something I feel parents should keep front of mind. The reason young babies are more susceptible to ear infections is because they have more immature and developing immune systems as well as the main fact that their Eustachian tube (the tube that is connected from the back of their nose/sinuses to their ears) is less developed and as a result more prone to getting blocked. As your baby grows these areas also grow and the likelihood of congestion and blockages reduces thus reducing the likelihood of an ear infection to occur.
Now I would like to move on to the most common symptoms of ear infections to look our for in your little one, they are as follows:
Symptom 1 – Baby tugging at ears
Babies tend to tug at their ears when they are teething, but this could also be a sign of an underlying ear infection with your baby. It can be very hard to tell what is due to teething or a possible ear infection. Babies pull on their ear or even hit their ear in an attempt to alleviate the pain
Symptom 2 – Baby won’t settle / won’t lie down
This I experienced first hand the other week, I gave our baby panadol as it was obvious she was teething, but she was particularly irate when I lied her down. Once the panadol had worn off, she refused to settle and was immediately distressed when lying her back down in the cot. The reason is that lying down increase the pressure in the Eustachian tube increasing the pain for your baby and hence you have a baby fighting sleep on your hands.
Symptom 3 – Ear leakage
Some might be aware of another common sign of ear infection in infants is to have some form of fluid leakage that you will noticed particularly when baby wakes. I personally had this happen when I noticed blood on our babies mattress, I was aware that this can also happen when teething and the teet are cutting through the gums, but in my case it was a ruptured ear drum. I know this sounds scary but don’t be too concerned, it will heal. The rupturing of the ear drum is a very natural process and the ear drum can heal very well. Though if any doubt take your loved one to the GP.
Symptom 4 – Fevers (sometimes)
A Middle ear infection with your baby like any other infection causes their body to react in response with a fever. Again this can be tough to identify particularly if your little one has been spiking temperatures due to her teething. Sometime the temperature may be of a lower grade, particularly if your baby has had a perforated (ruptured) eardrum which has in turn reduced the severity of the ear infection – as the releasing of the build up liquid behind the ear drum can reduce the temperatures momentarily. That said, the likelihood is that the fevers will return once the buildup resumes and if the infection is untreated due to the Eustachian tube being unable to drain properly recurrence is likely.
Symptom 5 – Difficulty in hearing
Another one of the more common baby ear infection symptoms, is that they could suddenly experience difficulty in hearing. Its exactly like you and I when we get an ear infection – often preceding the really painful part of the infection your ear tends to get blocked up with liquid in the Eustachian tube, to the point that it is difficult to properly hear out of 1 or both ears – right? Well its exactly the same for babies.
Symptom 6 – loss of balance
This is another symptom that is reasonably common, when there is a buildup of liquid in the middle ear this can effect your babies balance. If they are already walking you might notice them stumbling and wanting to sit down more as they might find it harder to stay upright. We had this with our youngest girl just the other week.
Symptom 7 – Off their Food
When your baby has an ear infection and they chew, normally this action will allow pressure to be dissipated in their ear canal. When it is blocked it increases the pressure in their which exacerbates the pain. As a result you might find your little one wanting to eat less due to the pain caused
What to do if you know your baby has an ear infection?
There is often a balance between wanting to ride out a possible infection, see if your baby can fight it but if they are getting fevers you really should see your doctor as soon as possible. They will be able to look in their ears and determine if there is an ear infection, for which the most common treatment is a course of antibiotics. If your baby has had repeated ear infections it’s also worth talking to your GP as they might want to refer you to a ENT (Ear Nose and Throat) specialist. Hopefully this post has given you some more ideas on what to look out for in terms of baby ear infection symptoms.
If you are struggling to settle your baby and looking for assistance and not sure if it is related to an ear infection, I am a baby sleep consultant with over 15 years experience and would love to be of assistance