Which Ear Infection Symptoms are Most Common in Babies?

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  • Written By: Lindsey Rivas
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 18 October 2018
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Babies usually develop the common ear infection symptoms when they have colds. They are susceptible to ear infections due to their short, narrow Eustachian tubes and immature immune systems. Babies will typically have ear pain, fevers, and be fussier than normal. When babies are too young to say where it hurts, they give clues to their ear infection symptoms, such as pulling on their ears because of the pain. Doctors diagnose ear infections by looking in the ears with an otoscope, and they might prescribe an antibiotic to treat the infection.

One of the most common ear infection symptoms is a piercing pain in the ear, which might get worse when lying down as fluid in the ear canals puts pressure on the ear drums. Babies with ear infections might also have fevers over 100.4°F (38°C), congestion in the sinuses and ears, and dizziness. In addition, they might show signs that they are having trouble hearing since their ear canals are blocked with fluid.

When infants cannot say exactly what their ear infection symptoms are, their behavior can indicate what is wrong. When they are having ear pain, they have a tendency to tug on their ears. Babies might have a loss of appetite, cry during feeding, or push away a bottle because it is painful to swallow due to pressure in the middle ear. Also, they will often have difficulty sleeping and usually be fussier than usual.


Doctors can make a diagnosis by checking for ear infection symptoms along with looking in the ears with otoscopes. They check to see if the ear drums are red and swollen and if there is fluid present. A buildup of fluid in the middle ear puts excess pressure on the ear drum and can cause it to rupture, so doctors will look for that as well.

For babies under 6 months old, doctors typically prescribe antibiotics to fight the bacteria causing the infection. When babies are older than 6 months, ear infections will usually clear up without medication, but if they don’t get better within a few days, an antibiotic might still be prescribed. Doctors generally recommend acetaminophen or ibuprofen for the pain, and sometimes ear drops can also be helpful in soothing the ear infection symptoms.

Babies who are prone to frequent ear infections might be kept on low doses of antibiotics for a longer period of time. In some cases, doctors might recommend babies get tiny tubes inserted in their ear drums. The artificial tubes, which stay in place for eight to 18 months, allow fluid to drain out of the middle ear and prevent fluid buildup.



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