What Makes Children More Susceptible to Ear Infections?

If you have small children, the odds are good that you’ve encountered an ear infection or two. In fact, three out of four infants have an ear infection by the time they’re 3 years old, and many experience multiple infections during this time. If you’re wondering why there’s such a high prevalence of ear infections among infants and toddlers, there are several culprits.

At ENT New York, under the expert direction of board-certified otolaryngologist and head and neck surgeon Dr. Vandana Kumra, our team offers a wide range of services that address the ear, nose, and throat needs of children and adults alike, which includes ear infections

We also believe that patient education is key, which is why we’ve put together the following primer on kids and ear infections. Here’s a look at why your child may be more susceptible to these infections. 

Ear infection 101

Most ear infections occur in the middle ear (behind the eardrum), medically known as otitis media. This type of infection develops when bacteria get inside, creating an immune response in the form of pus, which can build up painfully against the eardrum.

The reason this happens typically stems from inflammation in the eustachian tube, which connects your middle ear to the back of your throat and allows mucus to drain out. When there’s swelling inside these tubes, the mucus doesn’t drain out properly, allowing the bacteria to set up shop and create an infection.

A matter of anatomy

One of the primary reasons small children are more vulnerable to ear infections is a simple matter of anatomy. The eustachian tubes in children are smaller, shorter, and more horizontal than they are in adults, which makes it far easier for bacteria to access the middle ear.

Also, children have large adenoids in the backs of their throats. This can trap bacteria and block their eustachian tubes.

Defenses down

Another reason children develop ear infections more easily is because their immune systems are still in the developmental phase and aren’t yet strong enough to fight off infections. This is why the average toddler succumbs to 8-10 colds per year during the first two years of their life, and this number increases through preschool and kindergarten.

And with these viral infections comes the increased chance that an ear infection can develop.

Going horizontal during bottle-feeding

Another link to ear infections among infants is bottle-feeding your child in a horizontal position. In doing this, fluids can flow back into their eustachian tubes, including formula, and create an infection. To offset this, try feeding your baby at a 45-degree angle.

Combatting ear infections

In most cases, time and antibiotics usually clear up ear infections nicely, but some children struggle with chronic ear infections. If your child has an ongoing problem with ear infections, there’s potential for permanent hearing loss.

In these cases, Dr. Kumra may recommend a minor surgical solution to improve the drainage in your child’s ears. She also may recommend an ear wick so she can deliver bacteria-killing medications more effectively.

If your child is struggling with ear infections, the best course of action is to have us take a look. Simply contact our Manhattan office at 646-859-6136, or use the online scheduling tool to book an appointment.

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