Here are some things every parent should know about preventing ear infections in their children:

Preventing ear infections in children

There is no foolproof way to prevent child ear infections, but parents can do the following to try and limit a child’s risk:

  1. Breastfeed babies for 6 months or longer. Breastfeeding is known to build a baby’s immune system by giving them antibodies to fight certain infections. There is evidence that breastfeeding can cut the risk of ear infections during infancy by two-thirds.  (Greene, 2009)
  2. Don’t smoke around children, and do your best to keep them away from secondhand smoke. Cigarette smoke is a known irritant that can increase rates of infection and make those ear infections your child does get much worse.
  3. Don’t allow toddlers to use a pacifier beyond the age of 18 months.
  4. Avoid the use of antibiotics whenever possible, since the more you rely on these medicines, the more it promotes the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
  5. If you know a child to be prone to ear infections, try to avoid having them go underwater when swimming, especially to greater depths. Swimming to touch the bottom of a 3 foot pool places more water pressure on a child’s ears than simply ducking quickly underwater, and this can get water in the ear that causes bacteria to grow. Use ear plugs whenever possible when swimming.
  6. Ensure your child receives the pneumococcal vaccine on schedule, which can also protect against some forms of bacterial ear infections.
  7. If your baby is bottle fed, consider changing the way you hold him so that he is positioned in a more upright manner when feeding, more akin to how breastfed babies might be positioned. Bottle fed babies are often cradled in a sideways position when eating, and this can cause milk to back up in the Eustachian tube that connects the back of a baby’s mouth to the ear, potentially leading to an infection.