Ear infections are one of the most common reasons parents bring children to the doctor. And since babies can't tell us what's wrong, ear infections are particularly worrisome when you're the parent of an infant. To help you spot an ear infection in your little one, we looked to both experienced moms and the experts for a roundup of seven key signs of ear infections in babies.
1. Cold symptoms
"Ear infections are almost always preceded by a cold," says Dr. Sears. "Often a clear runny nose will turn yellow or green before an ear infection sets in."
2. Crying and irritability
If your baby has suddenly become more irritable, especially during feedings, an ear infection may be the culprit. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) explains: "The most common symptom of an ear infection is pain. Older children can tell you that their ears hurt. Younger children may only seem irritable and cry. You may notice this more during feedings because sucking and swallowing may cause painful pressure changes in the middle ear."
3. Trouble sleeping or lying flat
Has your baby been keeping you up with more night wakings than usual? Babies may have trouble sleeping from ear pain caused by ear infections, and the pain can worsen when they lie down flat.
Another common sign of an ear infection is a fever. When fever accompanies an ear infection, it is usually low-grade (101-102 degrees F), but an ear infection can also occur with a higher fever or with no fever at all.
5. Pulling or tugging at ears
Pulling and tugging at ears can be a sign of an ear infection. Though there are different reasons for pulling on ears in infants, including that a baby is teething or simply tired and trying to self-soothe. Babies with ear infections who don't pull or tug on their ears at all simply may not be able to tell where the pain is coming from.
6. Ear drainage
According to the AAP, yellow, white, and possibly blood-tinged fluid can start draining from a child's infected ear. The fluid may have a foul odor and will look different from normal earwax (which is orange-yellow or reddish-brown). Pain and pressure often decrease after this drainage begins, but this doesn't always mean that the infection is going away. You should still visit your pediatrician.
7. Loss of appetite
Your baby may have less of an appetite during an ear infection because of the ear pain.
The preceding information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.