What does it mean when your child pulls and hits his ears?

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If your child has been tugging on his ears, he could have an ear infection.

Do you often catch your little one scratching his ears or even hitting them? Has he become more cranky than usual? Well, it’s probably because he’s exhibiting one of the most common ear infection symptoms kids get. 

It is normal for babies and toddlers to develop ear infections. Usually they are not much to worry about and can be cured through home remedies. But, if left undetected and unchecked, they can cause sleepless nights and immense pain to your baby.  

So how do young ones develop an ear infection and what are some other ear infection symptoms in kids? Let’s find out.

What Causes Ear Infections in Kids? 

An ear infection is a viral or a bacterial infection that develops in the middle ear. Its first few symptoms are usually cold and allergies. Both of these block the eustachian tube, or the passage between the middle ear and the upper throat. 

This blockage results in a build-up of fluid in areas right behind the eardrum. The blockage causes inflammation and thus the acute pain. While most kids over two are able to express the pain, those under two can’t just say “My ear is killing me, mum.” And unfortunately ear infections are most common in them.

As Dr Christelle Tan, paediatric specialist at Raffles Specialists, Singapore told The Strait Times, “Compared to adults, younger children have a shorter, narrower and more horizontal Eustachian tube. This makes it easier for infections from the throat to spread to the ear, as well as more vulnerable to blockage.”

They often suffer through it until you detect it yourself. Therefore, keeping a close eye on your little one’s behaviour is crucial to spotting the early signs of an ear infection. 

What are the most common ear infection symptoms kids get? 

Common Ear Infection Symptoms in Kids

Catching early ear infection symptoms in kids can help prevent them from spreading and causing more pain to your little one. So here’s what you should look out for. 

1. Fever is the first sign  

If your baby has been tugging or pulling his ear or has lost his appetite, it could be because of an ear infection. Check if he has fever because that is the first sign. 

You may also notice that your baby is unsteady while walking or crawling, and it’s possibly because of the fluid blockage. If the wobbling is followed by discharge from the ears, that is most definitely one of the early ear infection symptoms in kids.  

2. Keep an eye on that cold 

Keep a close eye on your baby’s behaviour, especially if you suspect that he is developing a cold. That’s because when you child has cold, fluid will get trapped behind his eardrums and infect that area. 

In fact, a March-2016 study published in Pediatrics proved that nearly every child (in the study) developed an ear infection after a bout of common cold. 

3. Hearing problems are also indicators 

You must also keep tabs on your kid’s hearing abilities. They are another way to tell if your baby has developed an ear infection. If he has an ear infection, he may be less responsive to you and especially to sounds that usually startle him. 

He may even turn his other side towards you if one of his ears is completely blocked with fluid. His hearing could also suffer if your baby often drinks from his sippy cup while lying on the bed – or, if he has been swimming in a dirty pool or water. That way infection and debris might get trapped in his ears.  

With that being understood, the next important thing to remember is that an ear infection has the tendency to reoccur. So it’s possible that you need to nurse your kid’s ear infection all year round.

How to Prevent Ear Infection in Kids 

  • Breastmilk. Breastfeed your child for the first year of his life. Breastmilk has anti-bacterial and immunity-providing properties and can help your baby fight off the infection on his own. 
  • Feeding positions. Whether you breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby, make sure to keep him in a upright position as you do. This way the milk won’t flow readily into his ears as it does when he is lying down. 
  • Do your best to prevent colds. If anyone in your family has a cold, keep your baby away from them as much as possible. Wash hands often. 
  • Keep allergies in check and vaccinate. If mucus from previous allergies blocks the Eustachian tube, it can lead to an ear infection. So if he has developed allergies before, make sure to keep him safe, clean and covered so he doesn’t develop any more again. Vaccination can also help prevent ear infections. Make sure your baby gets pneumococcal vaccine, haemophilus influenzae vaccination and the influenza vaccine. 
  • Don’t smoke. Second-hand smoking can also lead to ear infections in kids. So avoid smoking around him and if possible, give up this habit altogether. 

If your baby’s ear infection is more serious, perhaps a visit to the doctor will yield better results than home remedies. He may prescribe antibiotics, specially if your baby is just two or above.

Usually, babies are not given antibiotics but your doctor may recommend it based on the severity of the ear infection. 

 

Sources: HealthlineThe Strait Times

Feature & lead image courtesy: Pixabay

Also read: Everything you need to know about ear infections in children