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4 Major Reasons Why Children Are More Susceptible to Ear Infections

Dr. Noor A. Sheikh

2 min read

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If a child is fussy and has trouble sleeping, he may have an ear infection. It is called otitis and it has three main types. The main reason why ear infections are more common in children than adults is the narrow spaces and smaller tubes in children’s ears.

According to doctors, these smaller and leveled Eustachian tubes cause severe ear infection. In children, the eustachian tube is horizontal and fills up with the liquid easily in no time. Usually it starts with cold, sore throat and upper respiratory infection and then bacterial fluid is built up in the middle ear and causes infection.

Although anyone can get ear infection at any age but children are more susceptible. As the tubes become vertical with age, the chances of infections become slim. In this article, we will talk about some other reasons why children are more prone to ear infections.

Symptoms

Most ear infections happen to children before they’ve learned how to talk. If your child isn’t old enough to talk about his problem, here are a few things to look for:

  • Fussiness and crying
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Fever (especially in infants and younger children)
  • Trouble hearing or responding to quiet sounds
  • Fluid draining from the ear
  • Tugging or pulling at the ear(s)
  • Clumsiness or problems with balance

Types of ear infections

The ear can be divided into three main “sections”: the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear.

  • Outer ear infections (also called otitis externa) occur when germs infect the ear canal that runs from the outer part of the ear to the eardrum. Another common name for these infections is swimmer’s ear, since these infections occur more commonly in kids who swim or spend a lot of time in swimming pools. That’s because when water remains in your child’s ear after swimming, it creates a warm, moist environment that’s ideal for bacterial growth.
  • Middle ear infections (otitis media) are the most common type of ear infections in kids. The middle ear extends from the eardrum to the inner ear. This part of the ear contains tiny bones that vibrate with sound waves, transmitting those waves to the inner ear (and ultimately, the brain). Infections here tend to involve the eustachian tube, a thin passageway between the ear and the throat. The eustachian tube keeps the ear aerated and drains away fluid that gets trapped in the middle ear. Middle ear infections often follow an upper respiratory infection, when germs from the throat travel up the tube to the ear. Swelling and excess mucus can also block the tube, preventing drainage and increasing bacterial growth inside the middle ear.
  • Inner ear infections (otitis interna) typically occur when an infection in the middle ear spreads to the inner ear, where the auditory nerve is located. The inner ear also contains a structure called the labyrinth, which helps us keep our balance, and the cochlea, which converts vibrations from the middle ear into electrical impulses carried by the auditory nerve to the brain.

Reasons for higher susceptibility

1- Smaller Eustachian tubes:

The major reason is smaller eustachian tubes which connect the middle ear to the back of the nose and throat. This problem is quite common among children aged 6-18 months as at this age Eustachian tubes have not developed and are vulnerable to infections.

2- Less-developed immune systems:

In children, the immune system is comparatively weak and is unable to fight germs that cause ear infections. So, more children are susceptible to  ear infections than adults. However, with age, the eustachian tubes lengthen and grow angled and thus reduce the chances of ear infections.

3- Ear, nose, and throat anatomy:

In children, the adenoids can become inflamed and infected. These are the glands which are located high in the throat behind the nose and soft palate and produce antibodies to fight infections. When adenoids get trapped by some bacterial infection, they can lead to ear infections.

4- Cold and other respiratory infections:

Cold and other respiratory infections are another cause. Ear infections are not contagious but during winters the ear infection becomes a kind of contagious disease as colds and upper respiratory infections are common.

Other factors:

The increasing trend of daycare centers is also responsible in spreading the infection. Secondhand smoke and bottle feeding also contribute in putting the kids at risk of having these infections.

Some ear issues get better on their own while others need to be treated with an antibiotic.  You need to talk to your ENT doctor for the appropriate treatment needed by your child. Consult our ENT specialists to diagnose the problem and treat it accordingly. You can book an appointment with our top ENT specialists from Karachi, Peshawar and Rawalpindi through Oladoc.com. You can also call our helpline at 042-38900939 for assistance to find the right doctor for your health concerns.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Dr. Noor A. Sheikh - Author Dr. Noor A. Shaikh is a leading ENT specialist and surgeon based in Karachi. He has deep expertise in treatment of conditions like headache, head & neck surgeries, thyroid problems, and ear cleaning. You can seek appointment with him through oladoc
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