Ear infections are the most common reason why children visit the doctor, accounting for millions of visits each year. So why do children get so many ear infections?
What Is An Ear Infection?
An ear infection, also known as otitis media, is an infection of the middle ear. The middle ear is the space behind the eardrum that contains tiny bones that transmit sound from the eardrum to the inner ear. An ear infection can occur when bacteria or viruses enter the middle ear and cause inflammation.
Why Are Children More Prone to Ear Infections?
Immature Eustachian Tubes
One reason why children are more prone to ear infections is that their Eustachian tubes are shorter and more horizontal than those of adults. The Eustachian tubes are small tubes that connect the middle ear to the back of the throat. They help to regulate the pressure in the middle ear and drain fluids. In children, these tubes are more prone to becoming blocked or congested, which can lead to fluid build-up and infection.
Exposure to Germs
Children are more likely to be exposed to germs because they spend a lot of time near other children, such as in day-care or school. This increased exposure to germs can make them more susceptible to ear infections.
Weaker Immune System
Children’s immune systems are still developing, which can make them more vulnerable to infections. Their immune systems may not be strong enough to fight off bacteria or viruses that can cause ear infections.
Pacifier use has been linked to an increased risk of ear infections. This is because the sucking motion can pull bacteria from the mouth into the Eustachian tubes.
Preventing Ear Infections in Children
While it may be difficult to prevent all ear infections in children, there are steps that can be taken to reduce the risk:
Practice Good Hygiene
Encourage your child to wash their hands frequently, especially before eating or touching their face.
Breastfeeding can help to boost your child’s immune system, which can help to prevent infections.
Avoid Exposure to Secondhand Smoke
Exposure to second-hand smoke can increase the risk of ear infections. Avoid smoking in the house or around your child.
Limit Pacifier Use
Limit pacifier use, especially after 6 months of age. If your child uses a pacifier, make sure it is cleaned frequently.