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Ear Infection Health Center

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Ear Problems and Injuries, Age 11 and Younger - Prevention

There are many steps you can take to help prevent ear problems and injuries.

  • Breast-feed your baby. Breast-fed babies may have fewer ear infections.
  • Avoid exposing children to cigarette smoke. Children exposed to secondhand smoke have more frequent ear infections. If you smoke and are unable to stop, smoke outside, away from your child.
  • Do not put your baby to bed with a bottle.
  • Do not allow your baby to hold his or her own bottle.
  • When your toddler is using a bottle or sippy cup, have him or her stay seated. This can help prevent injuries that might occur if your child were to fall while walking and holding a bottle or a cup.
  • Feed babies in an upright position to prevent milk from getting into the area around the eustachian tubes. Do not allow infants to fall asleep with a bottle. (Nursing babies may fall asleep at the breast.)
  • Being in day care increases your child's chance of getting an ear infection, so:
    • Choose a day care setting with 6 or fewer children.
    • Make sure that day care workers wash their hands before and after each diaper change.
    • Have day care workers wash toys often.
  • Limit the use of a pacifier after age 6 months to moments when your child is falling asleep. Babies who use pacifiers after 12 months of age are more likely to get ear infections.
  • Teach your children to blow their noses gently. This is a good idea for adults too. Wash your hands and teach your child to wash his or her hands after blowing. This helps prevent the spread of germs that can cause infection.
  • Wash your hands before and after every diaper change and teach your child to wash his or her hands after using the toilet.
  • When possible, limit your child's contact with other children who have colds.
  • Try to keep soap and shampoo out of the ear canal. Soap and shampoo can cause itching, which can be mistaken for ear pain if the child is scratching or pulling at his or her ears.
  • If your child has tubes in his or her ears, try to keep water from getting in the ear when your child takes a bath or a shower or goes swimming. The ear could get infected if any germs in the water get into the ear. If your doctor says it's okay, your child may use earplugs. Or your doctor may have other advice for you. He or she can tell you when the hole in the eardrum has healed and when it's okay to go back to regular water activities.
  • The Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) vaccine prevents ear infections caused by this bacteria. Pneumococcal vaccine also prevents some ear infections in children. For more information, see the childhood immunization schedule.
  • Do not insert anything, such as a cotton swab or a bobby pin, into the ear. Gently cleanse the outside of your child's ear with a warm washcloth.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 04, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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