What Increases Your Risk
Some things that increase
the risk for
middle ear infection are out of
your control. These include:
- Age. Children ages 3
years and younger are most likely to get ear infections. Also, young children
get more colds and
other upper respiratory infections. Most children have at
least one ear infection before they are 7 years old.
- Birth defects or other medical conditions. Babies with
cleft palate or
Down syndrome are more likely to get ear
- Weakened immune system. Children
impaired immune systems have more ear infections than
- Family history. Children
are more likely to have repeat middle ear infections if a parent or sibling had
repeat ear infections.
- Allergies. Allergies cause long-term stuffiness
in the nose that can block one or both eustachian tubes, which
connect the back of the nose and throat with the middle ears. This blockage can cause fluid
to build up in the middle ear.
Other things that increase the risk for ear infection
- Repeat colds and upper respiratory infections. Most ear infections develop from these illnesses.
- Exposure to cigarette smoke. Babies who are around cigarette smoke are more likely to have ear
infections than babies who are not. Also, ear infections seem to last longer in
babies who are near cigarette smoke.
- Bottle-feeding. Bottle-fed babies are more likely to develop ear infections within the first
year of life than babies who are breast-fed. Also, bottle-fed babies may be
more likely to get ear infections if they drink their bottles lying down rather
than being held in an upright position.
- Child care centers.
Children who are around many other children, such as in child care centers, are
more likely to have repeat ear infections.
- Pacifier use. A young child who uses a
pacifier is more likely to get ear infections.
Things that increase the risk for repeated ear infections
- Ear infections at an early age. Babies who have their first ear infection before 6 months of age
are more likely to have other ear infections.
- Persistent fluid in the ear. Fluid behind the eardrum that
lasts longer than a few weeks after an ear infection increases the risk for
- Prior infections.
Children who had an ear infection within the previous 3 months are more likely
to have another ear infection, especially if the infection was treated with
Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Charles M. Myer, III, MD - Otolaryngology
September 10, 2012
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