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Preventing a Middle Ear Infection

The most common type of ear infection is a middle ear infection, or otitis media. Middle ear infections usually affect children, but sometimes adults can get them too. There are a few steps that parents can take to prevent middle ear infections in children who may be susceptible to them.

Most middle ear infections occur after an upper respiratory infection, like the common cold or the flu. Because middle ear infections are often secondary infections, preventing the spread of germs can prevent ear infections as well. Teaching your child to wash his or her hands frequently can help make them less likely to get sick. Children can also be taught to reduce the chances of spreading germs to others, by covering their mouth when sneezing or coughing, and to not share drinks or eating utensils with anyone else. Children are more likely to get sick if they go to daycare or school, where diseases can be transmitted in a large group of kids.

Secondhand smoke can make a child more likely to develop middle ear infections. Not smoking cigarettes around your children is a way to reduce their chances of developing otitis media.

The feeding habits of infants can have an influence on their likeliness to develop otitis media. Children who breast feed for a period of at least six months are less likely to develop ear infections than children who don’t breast feed at all or those who breast feed for less than three months. The reason for this is because for the first six months of a baby’s life outside of the womb, the mother’s breast milk contains antibodies that can protect the baby from communicable diseases before its immune system is fully developed, including the common respiratory infections that can cause ear infections secondarily. Another way to help prevent middle ear infections in infants is to only bottle feed them when they are sitting upright, as opposed to lying down.

Certain vaccinations can also reduce the number of middle ear infections. Vaccinations for the seasonal flu virus and a bacterial infection called pneumococcus can have a role in preventing ear infections, as well as other potential complications of these diseases.

Even if all precautions are taken, children may still develop a middle ear infection after getting sick. However, taking these steps to prevent otitis media can significantly reduce the number of ear infections a child suffers from.