Reducing the Risk of Middle Ear Infections

Reducing the Risk of Middle Ear Infections

Most children have had at least one middle ear infection by the age of 2. Treatment may depend on whether the problem is acute or chronic, as well as how often it comes back and how long it lasts. For many children, reducing risk factors and taking antibiotics are all the treatment that’s needed.

Girl and boy washing hands in bathroom sink.Reducing Risk Factors

Some behaviors or surroundings increase your child’s risk of ear infection. Reducing such risk factors can be helpful at any point in treatment. The tips below may help.

  • If your child goes to group daycare, he or she runs a greater risk of getting colds or flu. Help prevent these illnesses by teaching your child to wash his or her hands often.

  • If your child has nasal allergies, do your best to control dust, mold, mildew, and pet hair in the house. Also stop or greatly limit your child’s contact with secondhand smoke.

  • If food allergies are a problem, identify the food that triggers the reaction and help your child avoid it. In some children, eating or drinking dairy products causes tissues around the eustachian tube to swell. This may make a blockage more likely.

Watching and Waiting

  • If this is your child’s first or second acute infection, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics and suggest a period of “watchful waiting.”

  • During this time, your child’s ears will probably be retested to look for any eardrum or hearing changes.

  • In most cases, fluid outlasts the acute infection by two to three weeks. If the fluid buildup becomes chronic, however, the doctor may watch your child for up to several months. This is because chronic fluid may go away with time—provided that no new infection occurs.