Mothers learn to tune into their infant’s cries very early on. Many mothers can tell just by listening to their baby cry whether he is hungry, tired, or needs to be changed. A sick baby will likely be fussy and act differently than he usually does, but he cannot tell his parents where it hurts.
Ear infections are fairly common in early childhood. Infants and toddlers have small ear canals and they can easily become infected as a result of an extended cold or other virus. Ear infections themselves are not contagious but the virus that caused the ear infection is, so if you suspect that your infant has an ear infection you will want to isolate him from other children.
Infants and toddlers will typically develop a low grade fever if they are fighting off an infection. If your infant has a fever it does not automatically point to an ear infection but that is often the culprit. If your baby feels warm to the touch you will want to get a more accurate temperature reading. Rectal temperatures are the most accurate for infants under one year and can be taken using a normal, digital thermometer. Infants under 3 months will typically need to be seen by the pediatrician if they have a fever over 100.3. Pediatricians can give more precise guidelines for older infants or toddlers.
Ear infections cause pressure in the ears when an infant sucks which can cause severe pain. One of the first signs that your baby has an ear infection may be a change in their eating patterns. Babies that are usually good eaters may breastfeed for shorter periods of time or refuse a bottle. Infants with ear infections may act hungry but become frustrated when they go to eat and only eat for a few minutes at a time.
Older infants and toddlers may pull on their ears when they have an ear infection. Ear infections are very painful so some toddlers may even scratch at their ears or stick their fingers in their ears. If your infant or toddler is tugging on his ears for more than a few days and exhibits unusual behavior or shows any sign of pain, he will need to be seen by the pediatrician.
Change in Behavior
Mothers know when their infant or toddler is not feeling their best. Sick babies may be fussy, have trouble sleeping, or want to be held more often. Any change in behavior for a non-verbal toddler is a clue to what they are feeling.
Some infants or toddlers may not show any symptoms of an ear infection. Ear infections typically come after an extended cold virus, whether an infant had mild or severe symptoms. Well child exams are essential to detecting asymptomatic ear infections. Untreated ear infections can eventually lead to hearing loss so it is important to treat them as soon as possible.