8 Signs of Ear Infection in Babies – Causes and Precautions

The new parent’s world revolves around their babies, no parent can bear the sound of their baby crying. Ear infection in Babies is very common, in fact, it’s the second most common ailment after a cold.

Adults are also prone to ear infections, especially during the rains. Do check out our article on How to prevent ear infections during the monsoons.


All parents should be familiar with these 8 signs of Ear Infection in Babies, the Causes and Precautions to be taken.

What Are the Signs of Ear Infection in Babies?

1. The Baby Shows Signs of Irritability

This is a very common sign, a mother will immediately realize that something is troubling the baby. An irritated child is very restless and will neither sleep nor eat. However, other ailments can also be a cause for irritability.

2. The Baby Cries More If Put To Sleep

This is one of the indicators that the baby has an ear infection. When the baby is lying on its back the pressure on the Eustachian tube increases. Eustachian Tube is a tube which connects the ear to the throat, it equalises the pressure in the middle ear. In case of an infection, there is a swelling in the Eustachian tube which does not allow equalisation of pressure. The increase in pressure or build-up of pressure in the middle ear causes additional discomfort or pain.

3. The Baby Has Fever

Though there are many other causes of Fever. One should note that if the fever accompanies the common cold or is immediately after a cold the chances are that it is due to an Ear Infection.

4. The Baby Pulls or Keeps Tugging Its Ears

When a baby starts pulling its ears, the chances are that something is bothering them. If the ear pulling is also accompanied by crying, the chances of Ear infection are high.

Parents should note that tugging or pulling of the ears can also be due to discomfort caused when the baby is teething. If in doubt, it is advisable to consult the Paediatrician.

5. Unpleasant Smell from the Baby’s Ears

If the baby emits an unpleasant odour from the Ears, it is a confirmation of Ear infection. The build-up of pus results in the foul and unpleasant smell.

6. Discharge from the Baby’s Ears

Discharge from the Ears is another confirmation of Ear Infection in babies. If you notice a yellowish or white liquid draining from the ears it is a sign of eardrum perforation. Ear drum perforation or a hole through which the accumulated liquid is oozing out.

There is no need to panic as the eardrum will heal or the hole will close by itself after the infection heals.

7. The Baby Does Not Respond To Sounds

The baby may not respond to the usual sounds as he or she usually does. This is because of the blockage in the ears. The blockage is due to the accumulation of fluid due to the infection in the ears. The blockage does not allow the sound waves to travel to the inner ear. The hearing loss is temporary, the baby will respond and will hear normally once the blockage opens up.

8. Reduced Appetite Or Diarrhea

The baby will refuse to drink milk beyond a few sips as the action of swallowing will cause pain and discomfort in the ears. An infection is occasionally accompanied by diarrhea or loose motions due to the low immunity.

 What Are the Main Reasons for Ear Infection in Babies?

Why do Babies get Ear Infection so often? There are 3 main reasons for repeated Ear infection in Babies.

  • Low Immunity In The Babies

Since the immune system in Babies is still developing, even a slight infection should be taken care of immediately. The surrounding area should be clean and dry.

  • Structure of the Ear in Babies

Eustachian Tube Comparison of Child and Adult blog image
Eustachian Tube Comparison of Child and Adult

A baby’s Eustachian tube is short and the angle is less than a gown person’s Eustachian tube. The Eustachian tube is straight hence water tends to stay in the tube instead of draining out. The wet and moist tube is an ideal breeding ground for germs and bacteria to develop.

The above mentioned reasons are natural and are beyond our control. The common cold is the other common reasons which we can eliminate or avoid to reduce chances of Ear Infection in Babies.

  • Common Cold

The Common cold is the main cause of ear infection in babies. Studies show that 23% of the babies get common cold by the time they are one year old. And 80% of the children get cold more than once till they reach the age of 4 years.

During the cold the Eustachian tube tends to get blocked. This results in the build-up of water in the Eustachian tube. The accumulation of water results in the growth of bacteria.

A Viral infection is also one of the causes of ear Infection. The Paediatrician will inspect and determine if the infection is Bacterial or Viral.

What Are The Important Precautions During Ear Infection In Babies?

  • Raise the head of the baby if they are being given water with a feeder. This prevents the water from going into the Eustachian tubes. Avoid feeding the Baby if it’s lying down.
  • A warm compression against the ear will bring some relief to the Baby.
  • Do not allow pets into the Babies room during the Ear Infection.
  • Avoid giving stuffed toys to Babies during the infection period.
  • Parents and visitors should strictly avoid smoking around the Baby.
  • Maintain proper room temperature and ventilation.
  • Reduce use of Pacifiers during the infection period.
  • Parents and caretakers should wash their hands before handling the Babies.
  • Confirm whether all vaccinations were as per the time schedule.

What is the Treatment For Ear Infection In Babies?

Doctor Checking Baby’s ear for Infection blog image
Doctor Checking Baby’s ear for Infection

Mild cases of Ear infections will go away on its own, keep the surroundings warm, dry and clean. Babies fed on breast milk have higher immunity. Parents can wait for a day before rushing to the Doctor unless the child is crying or is very uncomfortable. In certain cases, the discomfort can be due to blockage caused by common cold and not infection.

Parents should refer to the Doctor in case they are not sure. Pediatric Doctors are very cautious and do not prescribe antibiotics unless the infection has advanced. If the cause of Ear infection is viral, antibiotics will not work.  Antibiotic resistance is considered as a big threat to Global Health. Parents should avoid over the counter eardrops or any drug unless prescribed by the Doctor.

8 signs of ear infection in Babies Infographic
8 signs of ear infection in Babies Infographic

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