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Baby Has an Ear Infection

Now Ear This

How to Avoid Infection in the First Place

"Parents frequently ask what they can do to reduce their child's risk of ear infection, and at the top of the list I'd put day care," says David Darrow, MD, associate professor of otolaryngology and pediatrics at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Va.

He means avoiding day care, which isn't practical for most parents. If it's a must, doctors suggest that you try to find a setting with no more than five or six children, to reduce your baby's risk of getting ear infections to about the same as that of a child who stays home.

Other measures that reduce ear infection risk:

  • Breast-feeding boosts your baby's immune system and uses a swallowing mechanism that allows less milk to enter the eustachian tube. Also, breast milk is less irritating to middle-ear tissue.
  • Not letting your baby drink from a bottle while lying down, which may allow small amounts of formula to enter the eustachian tube and cause blockage.
  • Eliminating exposure to cigarette smoke.

Take heart -- there's usually an end in sight. The peak incidence for ear infections is usually around 6 to 18 months, says Park. Because the anatomy of the eustachian tube gradually becomes more like that of an adult, and infant immune systems mature, your child's ear troubles may be over by the time he hits age 3.

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