Your child is fussy and has trouble sleeping. Then they start tugging at their ears and running a fever. These are likely signs you recognize — another ear infection.

Although anyone can get an ear infection, children are particularly susceptible. It’s the most common reason children visit a pediatrician. Five out of six children experience at least one ear infection before their third birthday. About half of sufferers have repeated ear infections – with three or more.

Read on to find out why most children are likely to develop an ear infection and to know how to address them.

Smaller Eustachian Tubes

Children have smaller eustachian tubes that don’t tilt as much as they do in adults. The eustachian tube connects the middle ear to the back of the nose and throat.

Fluid, especially mucus from colds or respiratory infections, easily collects in the eustachian tubes and fails to drain normally. As this fluid sits, it becomes infected with bacteria, causing an infection. The eustachian tubes in children aged 6-18 months are particularly vulnerable to infection because they’re in the midst of development.

Less-developed immune systems

Children have a harder time fighting off infections due to their underdeveloped immune systems. As they mature, they can fight off the germs that cause ear infections. At the same time, the eustachian tubes also lengthen and grow angled, reducing the pooling of fluid.

Know that by time your child is in first grade, they usually outgrow ear infections.

Ear, nose, and throat anatomy

In children, the adenoids — which are located high in the throat behind the nose and soft palate — can become inflamed and infected. The role of these glands is to produce antibodies to help fight infection that passes through the nose and mouth. When bacteria gets trapped in the adenoids, it can cause a chronic infection that’s passed on to your child’s middle ear and eustachian tubes.  

More daycare

Children may also be getting more ear infections today than they did several decades ago because more children are in daycare when they’re babies and toddlers. Colds and other respiratory infections tend to spread in the close quarters.

Many infections, especially ear infections, are resistant to common antibiotics, so your child may need to go through several rounds of different kinds. It may seem like they’re getting multiple infections when it’s just one virulent bug.

Caring for ear infections

If your child seems to have an ear infection, it’s a good idea to have it checked out. The doctors at Katy ER will determine if the infection is in the external canal and treat appropriately.

Some children may be candidates for tympanostomy tubes, which are surgically placed into the eardrum. They help ventilate the middle-ear area and discourage fluid accumulation. In some cases, the doctors may recommend older kids have their adenoids removed, too, to discourage infection. If your child has recurrent ear infections, discuss these possible treatments with the staff.