Middle ear infections are one of the most common baby illnesses. Studies have shown that most infants have an ear infection at least once before their first birthday. Babies are susceptible to ear infections because their Eustachian tubes are shorter and straighter than adults. The fluid in the ear does not properly drain and it can cause ear infections for most babies. It is easy to identify ear infections in your baby. Most babies will become fussier than normal and will cry a lot. They will shake their head from side to side and tug at their ears. They may be running a fever or have other illnesses like diarrhoea and vomiting. Most children will have more fluid drain from their ear that is a whitish or yellow colour. Leakage from the ear could indicate that there is a hole in the ear drum. Smell your baby's ears; if you notice a foul odour, they have an ear infection. If your baby is having difficulty eating, this could be a sign of an ear infection.
Baby's can develop ear infections after having a sinus infection or common cold. The Eustachian tubes become blocked during a cold and the fluid inside the ear drum is trapped in the middle ear, leading to the development of bacteria in the ear. For some baby's, the development of the fluid and bacteria around the ears can cause the ear infection. The ear infection will be painful because it causes swelling inside the ear drum. Studies have found that 80% of ear infections will clear up on their own, but you need to see a doctor if the infection last longer than a week. Severe ear infections can lead to deafness or a loss of hearing. Baby's can develop ear infections after having a sinus infection or common cold. The Eustachian tubes become blocked during a cold and the fluid inside the ear drum is trapped in the middle ear, leading to the development of bacteria in the ear. For some baby's, the development of the fluid and bacteria around the ears can cause the ear infection. The ear infection will be painful because it causes swelling inside the ear drum. Studies have found that 80% of ear infections will clear up on their own, but you need to see a doctor if the infection last longer than a week. Severe ear infections can lead to deafness or a loss of hearing.
Your child's paediatrician will prescribe antibiotics for your baby. Some doctors will give your baby a vaccine that helps to protect against the build-up of bacteria in the ears. Depending upon your baby, they may need to perform laser surgery to their ear drum to help the fluid drain properly.
There is no proven method to prevent ear infections. The best thing you can do is to avoid giving them pacifiers throughout the day, only give it to them at night time or nap time. Studies have found that overuse of a pacifier will cause ear infections in babies. You should also try to breastfeed your baby for at least 6 months because the mother's milk produces antibodies that fight off infections. If you are formula feeding your baby, prop them upright when they are eating, this will help the fluid in their ears to drain when they are sucking on the bottle. Make sure you are attending your child's regular check-ups with their paediatrician and mention any illnesses that you have noticed.
The Common Cold
Most babies will have 8 to 10 common colds before their first birthday. The common cold normally goes away within 2 weeks, but it can lead to severe problems like croup or pneumonia. A simple way to prevent the common cold is to wash your hands often, and always wash your hands before touching your baby. Wash their toys with disinfectant after they have played with them. Limit your baby's exposure to other children, especially older children that do not wash their hands. You can identify symptoms of a common cold if you notice your baby has a congested or runny nose. Their nasal discharge may be clear to start, but then turns a yellow or green colour. Some babies will have a small fever and may sneeze and cough too. Watch your baby to see if their appetite decreases and if they seem irritable. Your baby may also have difficulty sleeping because of the common cold.
Generally, the common cold is a nuisance and it will clear up within 10 days. If your baby's cold last longer than 10 days, you need to see a paediatrician and have them checked out. A baby younger than 3 months old needs to see a paediatrician immediately because it may lead to croup and pneumonia. Stuffy or runny noses will make it difficult for your baby to breathe and drink. If your baby loses their appetite, you need to give them more fluids so they do not become dehydrated. The signs of dehydration include:
- A decreased appetite
- Difficulty eating
- Isn't wetting as many diapers as usual
- Is running a fever for more than one day
Babies are more susceptible to colds during the winter months because the air is dry. You should always keep a humidifier in their room and keep one in every room they are in. Keeping the air moist will help to clear the nasal air passages and can reduce the severity of the common cold. There is no cure for the common cold and antibiotics do not work against the common cold. Use a plastic bulb to suction the mucous from their nose and mouth and try to keep their nose clear from discharge. Babies that are running a fever need to be given baby Tylenol or Ibuprofen. They will break the fever and will make the baby more comfortable.
The Food and Drug Administration recently pulled at infant cold medication from the market because some babies were dying due to over-dosage. Studies also found that infants do not benefit from the use of over the counter cough and cold medications. If you are suctioning the mucous and you have a humidifier, your baby will be just fine. Some paediatricians recommend using baby vapour rub and placing a vaporizer in their room. The medication in the vapour rub will help to open the chest and nasal passages and it allows the baby to breathe better.
Severe Baby Illnesses
Each year around 4 million babies die as a direct result of severe illnesses. Most babies will die within the first week of life, due to severe illnesses. Bacterial infections, prematurity, and birth complications are the most common reason infants will die due to severe illnesses. These infants will need intensive care and they will be placed in the hospital for several days, to several moths. If you have a newborn baby, you need to watch for signs that may be a result of serious illness. Some common signs and symptoms include:
- Problems with eating or refusal to eat
- Inconsolable crying and difficulty sleeping
- The baby does not move unless you touch them
- Breathing rate of 60 breaths per minute
- Severe chest in-drawing
If you notice any of these signs with your infant, you need to take them to your paediatrician immediately. They may be at risk for serious problems and your paediatrician will need to hospitalize them in intensive care.
Diarrhoea and Vomiting
Diarrhoea and vomiting in infants can lead to dehydration. Dehydration happens because too much fluid is being lost from the body. Some infants will catch diarrhoea from other children or it can be an exposure to viruses and bacteria. You will notice diarrhoea if your baby produces watery stools or liquid stools. They are at risk for dehydration so you need to start giving them more fluids immediately. You will also notice dehydration if they have no tears when they cry, they refuse to eat, they have dry mouth, and they aren't producing as many wet diapers.
The fluid they lose due to diarrhoea and vomiting needs to be replaced with electrolytes. Adults can drink things like Gatorade and PowerAde to replace the lost electrolytes, however you should never give a baby these drinks. Apple juice should not be given to an infant with diarrhoea as well because all these drinks have sugars, which actually worsen the diarrhoea. The best drink to give them is breast milk, lactose-free formula, or PediaLyte. These have all the fluids your baby needs to prevent dehydration. If your baby is refusing to drink, get a syringe and slowly inject the fluids into their mouth. Give them enough time to swallow before you place more fluid in their mouth. Even giving them 2 ounces of PediaLyte will help them feel better and their appetite may come back. Toddlers can have clear soups and juice to help them prevent dehydration.
Infants that are vomiting need to be given a teaspoon of PediaLyte every hour. Once they are able to keep the PediaLyte down, you can increase the amount you give them. Keep track of how much your child drinks so you can tell your Paediatrician if their symptoms last longer than 48 hours.