You’ve heard the stats. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), 5 out of 6 children will have an ear infection by their third birthday. You know the signs—a cold, the flu, fever, tugging at the ear, fussiness and crying. You know ear infections are common in children. But do you know why they’re so common and what causes them?

There are two main reasons ear infections are more common in children than they are in adults, according to the NIDCD. First, children’s ears are simply smaller in size. The smaller the ear, the more likely an ear infection due to drainage not draining properly. The eustachian tube in the ear is what helps fluid drain and keep equalized pressure in the middle ear. In turn, a younger, smaller ear and eustachian tube tends to be more easily backed up by fluids in the ear from sickness or bacteria.    

Secondly, children’s immune systems are not as fully developed as adults. Therefore, children catch more colds and flus than adults. These flus and colds can easily lead to ear infections, especially if reason number one is in play and the eustachian tube is clogged with mucus or fluid.

There are three types of ear infections: outer, middle, and inner. They correlate to different parts of the ear where the infection occurs. The most common type of ear infection for kids is a middle ear infection (acute otitis media). A middle ear infection is where fluid gets trapped behind the tympanic membrane or eardrum and causes pain and swelling in your child’s ear. Another common ear infection is an outer ear infection (otitis externa) or swimmer’s ear. An outer ear infection is when bacteria infects the external ear canal accompanied often by pain, swelling, and possible discharge from the ear.

The cause of middle and outer ear infections can vary, (inner ear infections are less common) but there’s one main reason why your child’s ear becomes sore and infected: bacteria.

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Bacteria is not a dirty word. It’s all around us all the time and can actually be helpful to build immune systems and regulate gut health. But the wrong kind of bacteria in the wrong place can result in sickness and sore ears.

Preventing ear infections can be tricky, but avoiding other sick children is a start. Frequently washing your hands can also help keep that nasty bacteria away from your ear. Additionally, children exposed to second-hand smoke are more likely to acquire ear infections.

Seeing a child miserable and in pain can be devastating. Hopefully, this information and these tips will come in handy the next time you think an ear infection is creeping up on your tot. 

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This is not a sponsored post. Article by Katie Marler, communications associate at Eosera®, Inc., a biotech company committed to providing innovative ear care products for adults, kids, and pets. 

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