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:
- 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)
- 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.
- Don’t allow toddlers to use a pacifier beyond the age of 18 months.
- 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.
- 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.
- Ensure your child receives the pneumococcal vaccine on schedule, which can also protect against some forms of bacterial ear infections.
- 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.