Before the age of three, most children will get an ear infection.

Middle ear infections are the most common type of ear infection and are caused by a buildup of fluid in the middle ear area.

Usually, children get an ear infection due to a cold, allergies or another upper respiratory illness. 

Symptoms of an ear infection in children: 

  • Ear pain, especially when lying down
  • Tugging or pulling on the ear
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Fluid draining from the ear 

Why do children get ear infections more than adults? 

Inside your ears are narrow channels called eustachian tubes that allow drainage and prevent fluid buildup in the middle ear. In children, these eustachian tubes are shorter and more narrow, which makes it easier for fluid to clog the tubes and cause infections. 

Because a child’s immune system is still developing, their immune system isn’t as strong as an adult’s. This makes it more difficult for children to fight an ear infection. 

How can you tell if an infant has an ear infection? 

When a baby has an ear infection, they might tug at their ears, seem crankier than usual and have trouble sleeping through the night. In infants, having a fever is not usually a sign of an ear infection. 

For babies, a middle-ear infection is often followed by a cold. So, if a baby is stuffed up with clear, watery drainage coming from their nose, and then a few days later they are cranky and the discharge is more yellow, green or snotty, they might have an ear infection. 

How common are ear infections in toddlers? 

Children between the ages of 6 months and 2 years are more susceptible to ear infections than toddlers and older children. Children’s eustachian tubes are shorter, and they have a weaker immune system, which accounts for their susceptibility. 

For toddlers, one way they might be more at risk of getting an ear infection is group child care. Children in group settings are more likely to be exposed to colds, which could lead to an ear infection, as both viruses and bacteria cause infections. 

Ear infections in children 3 years old or older

Ear infections are a common problem in children up to the age of 8. Older children are able to tell parents their symptoms (such as “my ear hurts” or “I can’t hear”), which can make it easier to spot the infection before visiting a doctor. 

Commonly known as “swimmer’s ear,” an outer ear infection is caused by exposure to moisture or water. Children and young adults who spend a lot of time swimming might get this type of ear infection. 

When to take your child to the doctor for an ear infection 

If your child has an ear infection, parents should call their child’s doctor or pediatrician if: 

  • Symptoms persist for more than 24 hours
  • Infant is 6 months old or younger
  • Ear pain is acute or severe
  • Infant or toddler can’t sleep or is irritable after having a cold or other respiratory infection
  • There is a discharge of fluid, pus or blood from the ear 

How do you treat an ear infection in children? 

In some instances, an ear infection in children might go away on its own. Many doctors will prescribe an antibiotic to treat an ear infection, which usually needs to be taken for 7 to 10 days. To help with ear pain or fever, a doctor might also recommend over-the-counter pain relievers or ear drops. 

Ear infections are often caused by bacteria. However, some ear infections are caused by viruses, which cannot be treated with antibiotics. 

Pediatric care In Denver 

Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children is dedicated to providing the best health treatment for children of all ages. Our board-certified physicians and pediatricians are committed to offering personalized care for each and every child. Talk to your child’s doctor about any concerns you have about your child’s health.