By Melissa Lahti, Feb. 17 2008
Babies pull on their ear, that’s a fact. As they grow they are continuously learning new things about their bodies. They poke their noses. They poke their eyes. They explore and poke around everywhere as they are constantly learning new things. It becomes a problem though when you see them continuously pulling and poking at their ears. How do we know if it’s infected or not? You find yourself wondering, is this baby of mine in pain? Since babies can’t talk we often have to guess, which can be a very aggravating process.
Just past the outer ear there are three small bones that make up the eardrum. Just beyond that there is a small tube called the Eustachian (yoo-stay-she-un) tube. This tube is so small in babies that when fluid builds up it has a hard time draining out. As the fluid builds up more and more bacteria grows in it and causes an infection. The build up of fluid presses on the eardrum and causes the baby pain. At this point your baby should also have a fever, loss of appetite and inconsolable crying.
On the other hand, the muscles of the jaw are connected to the ear. When a baby is teething it will make their ears hurt. They will pull on them and rub them. Like an infection, teething can also cause a little fever, loss of appetite and lots of irritability. Knowing that how can we tell the difference between teething and an infection?
There are a few key signs that point to an infection. First, if the fever goes away when you use a fever reducer but then comes right back when it wears off. That is a sign of an infection. Next, teething pain will come and go, your baby will fluctuate between happy and cranky all day. While pain from an infection does not go away, the baby will be constantly cranky and irritable. The pain gets worse when the child lies down. If the baby is inconsolably crying every time you lay him down, he probably has an infection. Finally, the main key is going to be your gut feeling. Have you ever heard the saying: “mother knows best”? Well it’s true.
It usually never hurts to go to the doctor but, there have been many studies showing that antibiotics are doing more harm then good. And way too many doctors are too quick to prescribe one. What is happening is with the over use of antibiotics bacteria is becoming resistant to them and we are creating a bacteria that has no cure. There are many doctors that recommend treating the symptoms of an infection with acetaminophen (as-sa-toe-min-a-fin) and nasal decongestants for at least three days. Then, if there still appears to be an infection, go ahead and take the baby in for an antibiotic. Many ear infections will clear themselves if you wait about three days.
A few things you can do to help relieve the symptoms are:
The ear canal is like a balloon. As the fluid builds up it presses on the eardrum and slowly expands. At some point it is probably going to burst. There will be a greenish drainage leaking out. Don’t panic. At this point your baby will feel total relief and there is no damage done to the eardrum.
All in all, you know what is best for your baby. You must go with your gut feeling and do whatever you feel is right.