According to JAMA Pediatrics, a monthly peer-reviewed medical journal published by the American Medical Association, approximately 50% of all children will experience at least one ear infection before their second birthday. While anyone can get an ear infection, they’re much more prevalent in young children and often related to upper respiratory tract infections, like the common cold. There are several reasons why this happens:
- Children have shorter, more horizontal eustachian tubes (small tubes that run between the middle ear and upper throat). This means bacteria and viruses find their way into the middle ear more easily. These tubes are also narrower, and therefore more likely to get blocked.
- Their adenoids (gland-like structures at the back of the throat) are larger and can interfere with the opening of the eustachian tubes.
- A child’s immune system is young and not as strong as an adult’s, which can make it more difficult to fight off infection.
Now that we know why ear infections happen, let’s find out how to prevent ear infections.
How to prevent ear infections
The best thing you can do to prevent ear infections in young children is to make sure your home or living environment is as clean as possible. It’s also important to protect your child from being exposed to a lot of colds during their first year of life. While not all ear infections can be prevented, here are a few more things you can do to lower the risk of ear infections, including:
- Stay away from cigarette smoke
Second-hand smoke can cause your child to have more blockages or other problems with their eustachian tubes, which can lead to infection. Avoid smoking in the home, car or anywhere your child frequents.
- Manage your child’s allergies
If your child suffers from seasonal allergies, talk to your doctor about the best way to reduce inflammation and swelling in the middle ear that could lead to an ear infection.
- Wash your hands (and your child’s hands) often
Keeping everyone’s hands clean is the best way to stop the spread of illness and infection.
- Get vaccinated
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the PCV7 vaccine protects against the seven most common strains of pneumococcal bacteria responsible for middle ear infections.
When to visit urgent care
While most ear infections go away without medical intervention, it’s important to visit your nearest urgent care if you or your child has been struggling with painful symptoms for more than 2-3 days. Severe or repeated ear infections that go untreated can lead to complications like swelling, headaches, hearing loss, meningitis or even a brain abscess. If you have a young child struggling with painful symptoms of an ear infection, visit Getwell Urgent Care for fast diagnosis, treatment and relief. We welcome walk-in appointments 7 days a week from 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.