According to a study recently published in the journal Pediatrics, the rate of occurrence of ear infections in infants under one year old is decreasing. The study found that 46 percent of infants surveyed between 2008 and 2014 had developed an ear infection by the age of one. While this is still a significant percentage, it’s a decrease from the 60 percent that were found to have an ear infection by the age of one in studies from the 1980s and 1990s.
Why Have Infant Ear Infection Rates Decreased?
According to a report by HealthDay, there are several theories for why this is happening. The most obvious one is that infants are now routinely given a pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) that protects them against several types of infections that can be caused by pneumococcal bacteria. In addition to preventing certain types of ear infections, this vaccine can also prevent cases of pneumonia and meningitis that are caused by pneumococcal bacteria.
Other reasons for the decrease in middle ear infections include an increase in breastfeeding and a decrease in exposure to second hand smoke. Dr. Tasnee Chonmaitree from the University of Texas agrees that exclusive breastfeeding up until the age of 6 months could have an impact. Not only does breast milk contain antibodies to help protect infants against infection, the babies’ position while feeding can also protect them. Babies who spend more time laying on their backs with a bottle may be more at risk for developing ear infections.
Middle Ear Infection Treatment
What is a Middle Ear Infection?
Infants often develop middle ear infections. A middle ear infection is defined by a bulging tympanic membrane (ear drum). There may or may not be a presence of fluid in the ear. These symptoms are sometimes difficult to detect unless you are an experienced medical professional with the right equipment to see inside the inner ear. Symptoms are difficult to define because the ways in which infants express symptoms of pain and irritation vary significantly from child to child. Some signs may include ear rubbing or tugging, unusual temper tantrums, sleep disruption, fever, ear drainage and irritability.
Treating Ear Infections in Infants
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that acetaminophen or ibuprofen be used for pain relief and that the infant be monitored for 48 to 72 hours. See your pediatrician and have him or her examine the child’s ear. According to the Academy, around 80% of children with middle ear infections get better without antibiotics. Learn more about the guidelines for infant ear infections on the AAP’s website, and learn more about treatments on our ear infection page.