Ear infections are a common cause of distress in infants and their parents. Though the symptoms may be harder to spot in infants, there are ways you can tell if it’s an ear infection your baby is suffering from, and to get the help they need.

We’ve done our research and brought you some helpful tips for treating and preventing ear infections.

Ear infections happen when germs grow in the fluid trapped in the Eustachian tube, or the tube that connects the middle ear to the back of the throat and helps to equalize pressure.

The reason babies are prone to ear infections is because their Eustachian tube is short, wide and horizontal, so germs can travel more easily through it.

Some symptoms that your baby has an ear infection are:

  • Change in mood: One of the easiest ways to tell if your baby has an ear infection is by monitoring their mood. If your little one seems fussier or is crying more than usual, it’s a sign they’re in pain.
  • Reduced appetite: Ear infections can make it harder for your baby to chew or swallow. The virus that caused the ear infection can also give them stomach aches, diarrhea or vomiting.
  • Trouble sleeping: If your baby is frequently waking up in the middle of the night with a worsening cold, it could be a sign of an ear infection.
  • Eye drainage: When accompanied by a cold, eye drainage is usually a red flag of a sinus or ear infection.
  • Tugging at the ears: Tugging, rubbing or banging on the ears could be a sign that your little one is in pain. However, babies can also pull on their ears during teething or for various other reasons. If they seem fine otherwise, it’s probably no cause to worry.

There are many simple steps you can take to prevent ear infections. Make sure any bottle-feeding is done with your little one in an upright position. Keep stuffed and real animals away from babies while they sleep to reduce allergens, and make sure they’re getting lots of immune-boosting fruits and veggies in their diet.

It’s important to treat ear infections properly, as repeated ear infections can damage the eardrum. Persistent ear infections can also cause a temporary loss of hearing, which can lead to speech delays or language problems if they’re just learning to talk.

Most infections will heal on their own without the use of antibiotics. If your child doesn’t start improving within two or three days, their doctor may then prescribe medication. As always, speak to your pediatrician if you have any cause for concern.