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Ear Infections

Call your pediatrician at the first sign of an ear infection. Depending on the severity of the infection, he or she may give you a prescription for antibiotics. While most infections will heal on their own without antibiotics, your child may have to endure 4 to 7 days of pain and fever before the bacteria and fluid clear. The following are some ways to relieve the pain of ear infections from Dr. William Sears, Associate Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine:

  • Children's acetaminophen or ibuprofen (always check with your doctor first before giving your child medication)

  • Warm compress - apply a warm washcloth to the ear

  • Warm olive oil, vegetable oil, or garlic oil - put several drops of one of these into the ear. Be sure the oil is not too hot.

  • Anesthetic eardrops - these are available by prescription and numb the eardrum to minimize pain for several hours.

If your child suffers from chronic or frequent ear infections, your pediatrician may recommend ear tubes. These are tiny tubes inserted into the eardrum for 6 months to a year to help drain fluid, assist hearing and proper speech development, and to prevent hearing loss (a rare, but possible complication of chronic ear infections).

The best way to prevent an ear infection is to prevent your child from catching colds and sinus infections, which can be a challenge. However, here are some other ways to reduce the chance your child will develop an ear infection:

  • Breastfeed - Studies have shown the risk of ear infections is 70 percent higher in formula-fed babies, so breastfeed your baby as long as possible.

  • Feed upright - If you are bottle-feeding, try to feed your baby upright; lying down can cause the milk to irritate the Eustachian tube.

  • Vaccinate your child - Certain routine vaccinations, such as the HiB and Pneumococcal vaccines, help prevent illnesses that can lead to an ear infection.

  • Avoid cigarette smoke - Cigarette smoke irritates a baby's nasal passages, which can lead to problems with the Eustachian tube and make ear infections more common.

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