Dr. Douglas Dedo, MD

Top 3 Causes of Ear Infections in Children

Ear infections are one of the most common childhood illnesses. A middle ear infection (otitis media) is what happens when bacteria get into the space behind the eardrum. Fluid and pus fills the space of the middle ear and can push against the eardrum – causing pain and potentially temporary hearing difficulties.

There are many variables that can cause these ear infections in children— today, we will discuss the top 3.

#1 Cause of ear infections in children: Child-sized proportions

Little heads have a different shape than their adult form. Children have shorter, narrower eustachian tubes that sit at near parallel. This is a one-two punch against kids when it comes to infection.

The shorter eustachian tube can allow bacteria to collect easier, and the lower angle allows fluid to collect and block. Children also have larger, gland-like patches in the back of their throat called adenoids, which can become enlarged, and can block eustachian tubes.

#2 Cause of ear infections in children: Environmental conditions

Secondhand cigarette smoke exposure can create a greater risk for ear infections, as well as being in childcare or preschool with other children. Another factor is feeding – children who lay flat to feed or take a bottle to bed are more likely to develop ear infections as the milk backs up into the ears. (Keep baby at a more upright position regardless of feeding choice of bottle or breast.)

Children with environmental allergies are also at a higher risk for developing ear infections (with the increased swelling and runny nose that is triggered by allergies.)

#3 Cause of ear infections in children: Colds

When a child gets a cold, mucus builds up and can easily back up into the ears. This can easily trigger an infection due to the shape and length of the eustachian tubes in children (see point #1.) Other respiratory or throat infections can cause an ear infection as well, due to the spread of bacteria through the ear-nose-throat.

A combination of all of these causes or even just one cause can result in a child with an uncomfortable, painful, and potentially recurring, ear infection problem. If your child experiences recurring ear infections, contact Dr. Dedo for an evaluation today.