When it comes to runny noses, spit up, and diaper rashes, your eyes tell you what you need to know. Whether you're a first time parent or a certified professional, the invisible things that ail your baby can be a little bit more difficult to diagnose. One of the worst offenders? Ear infections. Figuring out how to tell if your baby has an ear infection is one of the bigger mysteries of parenting. Symptoms of ear infections aren't always straightforward, and can start as something as little as having a fussy baby.
In an interview with WebMD, Atlanta pediatrician and editor of American Academy of Pediatrics Baby & Child Health Dr. Jennifer Shu said that the most common cause of ear infections is the common cold. "An ear infection happens when you get infected fluid or pus behind the eardrum," Shu told the website. Shu also said that children under three years of age are the most susceptible to ear infections, because they don't have the strongest immune systems. "They haven't been exposed to many of these germs before, so it takes them a little longer to fight them off," Shu said. And while fevers can come with ear infections, they don't always appear as a symptom. Ear drainage, sleepless nights, and loss of appetite are symptoms that may appear with an ear infection. But according to Shu, for many children, it's just manifests as fussiness and crying more than usual.
If your baby is more fussy than usual, crying more, and acting a bit more clingy, it's important to look for other signs your baby might have an ear infection. According to Parents, your child tugging their ear is not a reliable sign that they have an ear infection. But if your baby gets more upset when they lie down, that could absolutely be the sign of an ear infection, as more pressure is put on the eustachian tubes (the tube that connects the middle ear to the back of the throat, according to the Mayo Clinic) when your child is in this position. Another telltale sign, according to Parents, is if your baby isn't reacting to sounds the way they normally do. A change in your baby's ability to hear the world around them could mean they're suffering from an ear infection.
If your baby's suffering from any of the aforementioned symptoms, is fresh off the heels of a cold, or is particularly fussy lately, you may want to get them in to see a pediatrician, so that they can take a closer look. According to Baby Center, your doctor will take a look in your baby's ear with an instrument called an otoscope, and if they find an eardrum that's red, bulging, and showing signs of drainage, they'll most likely diagnose your babe with an ear infection. Baby Center also urged parents to reach out to their doctor again if their baby's symptoms appear worse, or the same after 48 to 72 hours. Though an ear infection isn't always easy to spot, once you're familiar with your baby's behavior, you'll become a pro at spotting the signs.