An ear infection happens when a bacterial or viral infection affects the middle ear. Most ear infections happen when a child has previously had a cold for a few days.
Middle ear infections are also called otitis media. They are very common, especially in children between 6 months and 3 years of age. They are usually not serious and aren’t contagious, though can be painful because the inflammation and fluid buildup.
Ear infections can be chronic or acute. Acute ear infections are painful but don’t last more than a few days. Chronic ear infections they can recur many times. Chronic ear infections can cause permanent damage to the middle and inner ear and loss hearing.
Viruses or bacteria cause middle ear infections. Germs travel from the back of the throat when the Eustachian tube is swollen from a cold, causing infection in the middle ear. In some cases, children with an ear infection may also have fluid draining from the ear.
Some groups are more prone to have ear infections:
- Children less than 5 years old, because they have shorter Eustachian tubes.
- Children who attend daycare, because they tend to have more colds.
- Babies who are being bottle fed, especially if they swallow milk while lying too flat, it can enter the Eustachian tube and increases the risk of an ear infection.
- unexplained fever
- trouble sleeping
- tug or pull at their ears
- difficulty hearing quiet sounds.