The painful truth is five out of six children experience ear infections by their third birthday. Ear infections occur when fluid builds up behind the eardrum and becomes infected by bacteria or a virus. Babies are more susceptible because of the length and shape of their tiny Eustachian tubes, which normally ventilate the ear and keep it free of fluid. While older children can tell you when they’re in pain, look for the following signs in babies:
Reduce your baby’s risk for ear infection by avoiding exposure to secondhand smoke, vaccinating, washing your hands frequently, minimizing exposure to sick children and breast-feeding for at least 6 months. When bottle-feeding, be sure to hold baby’s head above her stomach to prevent formula from entering the Eustachian tubes. If you suspect your baby has an ear infection, call your pediatrician.