A mood change often is the first indicator an ear infection in infants. The moment the child starts crying more than usual or becomes especially fussy, be on the lookout. Although an ear infection is sometimes accompanied by a fever, that's not always the case. Some of the other signs that might help you recognize ear infection in infants are a reduced appetite, symptoms of a cold, diarrhea, difficulty sleeping or lying flat, frequent pulling at the ear and fluid draining from the ear. Although some of these symptoms are subtle, it's always a good idea for an infant to be checked out by a pediatrician when he or she seems to be having any of these problems.
Be on the lookout for a reduced appetite. When a baby has an ear infection, he or she might not feel like eating. In fact, it might be painful for him or her to swallow. He'll sometimes begin to suckle, but pull away after the first sip or two.
Ear infection in infants are almost always preceded by a cold, so watch for any signs of cold symptoms, such as yellow or green mucus running from the infant's nose. If the baby has a cold and suddenly becomes more agitated, it could be another sign that it has spread to the baby's ears. Although diarrhea is not normally associated with ear infection in infants, it can be a symptom. The same virus that causes the infant to have an ear infection can work its way into his or her gastrointestinal tract, resulting in diarrhea.
Sometimes, when a baby has an ear infection, he or she doesn't want to lie flat and might wake up more often during the night. This can be a sign that he or she doesn't feel well. Babies tend to pull at everything, including their feet, nose and ears. If you happen to notice, though, that the baby is tugging at his or her ears more than usual, it might be a sign of an ear infection, particularly if he or she is fussy while doing so.
There are two more symptoms of ear infection in infants. If you notice a foul smell coming from the child's ear, that can be one sign. Blood or a yellow or whitish fluid draining from the ear can be another sign. Drainage from the ear might indicate that there is a small hole in the eardrum.
It is estimated that more than 80 percent of children will suffer from an ear infection in the first 36 months of their lives. More than 50 percent of those children will have three or more ear infections during this time period. In fact, ear infection in infants is second only to the common cold in terms of the number of children affected.