Preventing Ear Infections

The ASHA blog recently posted about updated treatment recommendations for childhood ear infections.

This is an issue that mostly pertains to pediatricians, though SLPs should understand the diagnostic criteria and treatment recommendations.

Antibiotics, while effective for treating otitis media, are not always recommended as a first course of treatment. Rather, doctors are encouraged to recommend pain relievers and see whether the otitis media resolves on its own. If the tympanic membrane ruptures, then antibiotics are prescribed. If there are several symptoms of OM, then antibiotics are prescribed.

Although otitis media seems to be a rite of passage for children, there are steps parents can take to prevent its occurrence. However, parents do not receive much guidance on how to prevent ear infections.

The ASHA article recommended “avoidance of tobacco exposure, receiving the influenza vaccination, and breast feeding exclusively for the first 6 months” as preventative measures against ear infections.

Other ways that parents can help include:

1. Prevent your child from catching the cold or a viral pathogen

Otitis media is often preceded by the common cold or a virus.

– wash your hands and your child’s hands often

– watch what your children put in their mouths

– keep your child out of daycare if he has a cold so that it does not spread

2. Keep your child away from smoke

Otitis media often develops in children who are exposed to smoke.

– don’t smoke

– don’t eat in the smoking area of restaurants

3. Support your child’s immune system

– if you can, breastfeed your child until he is six months old

– guard your child’s diet from unnecessary sugars

– include fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats (omega 3s especially) in your child’s diet

– make sure your child engages in physical play, as exercise has been shown to support the immune system’s functioning

4. Don’t feed your baby while he’s lying down

This can cause liquid to flow to the middle ear via the Eustachian tube.