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Ear Infection: Prevention

How can I help prevent ear infections?

As long as there is fluid in the middle ear, your child is at risk for having another ear infection. The following list includes ways to help prevent getting ear infections.

  • Avoid tobacco smoke. Protect your child from secondhand tobacco smoke. Passive smoking increases the frequency and severity of infections. Be sure no one smokes in your home or at day care.
  • Avoid excessive colds. Reduce your child's exposure to children with colds during the first year of your child’s life. Most ear infections start with a cold. Try to delay the use of large day care centers during the first year by using a sitter in your home or a small home-based day care.
  • Breast-feed. Breast-feed your baby during the first 6 to 12 months of life. Antibodies in breast milk reduce the rate of ear infections. If you are breast-feeding, continue. If you are not, consider it with your next child.
  • Give your child all recommended immunizations. The flu vaccine and the pneumococcal vaccine will protect your child from some ear infections.
  • Avoid bottle propping. If you bottle-feed, hold your baby with the head higher than the stomach. Feeding in the horizontal position can cause formula to flow back into the eustachian tube. Allowing an infant to hold his own bottle also can cause milk to drain into the middle ear.
  • Control allergies. If your infant always has a runny nose, a milk allergy may be the problem. This is more likely if your child has other allergies such as eczema.
  • Check for snoring. If your toddler snores every night or breathes through his mouth, he may have large adenoids. Large adenoids can lead to ear infections. Talk to your healthcare provider about this.

Call your child's healthcare provider during office hours if:

  • Your child develops an earache.
  • Your child's speech development is delayed.
  • You have other questions or concerns.
Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2018.1 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2011-06-29
Last reviewed: 2017-06-05
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2018 Barton D. Schmitt, MD FAAP. All rights reserved.
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