5 Tips to Avoid Ear Infections

An ear infection is a fairly common illness that almost everyone has had at some point in their lives. Though they are usually secondary infections triggered by a cold, flu, or allergy that migrates through the nose and/or throat into the ears, ear infections can lead to either temporary or long-term hearing loss. If not treated properly, permanent damage can occur.

Children are particularly vulnerable to ear infections, since their Eustachian tubes (the tubes connecting the back of the throat to the middle ear) are smaller and more horizontal. As a result, the sniffling and poor drainage of the tubes can create clogging mucus and lead to infections.

An ounce of prevention…

What can be done to avoid ear infections? While ear infections can affect anyone at any time, there are several things you can do to help reduce the risk and frequency:

  1. Wash hands frequently: Clean hands are key to avoiding infections. This is especially true in crowded situations like sporting events and conventions or when traveling. Use portable hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available.
  2. Don’t smoke: And avoid second-hand smoke. Research suggests that children who live in homes with parents who smoke have a higher risk of developing middle ear infections.
  3. Know your triggers: Understand what allergies you may have (such as food-based or environmental allergies) and avoid them as much as possible. Make sure you take any medically prescribed treatments or preventatives to reduce the chance for infection.
  4. Sit up straight: Reclining while eating or drinking can increase your chance of developing an ear infection. This is particularly important for small children and infants, as it will help prevent food and liquid from flowing into their Eustachian tubes and into their ears.
  5. Immunize yourself: Get seasonal vaccinations for diseases like influenza, pneumonia, and any other vaccinations available. You’ll also want to make sure your prior vaccinations are up to date, and get boosters if required.

Despite your best efforts to protect yourself, you may still get an ear infection. While they typically clear up with drops, antibiotics, or other treatments, frequent or untreated infections can cause serious complications, including hearing loss. If you or your child suffers from persistent ear infections, especially if accompanied by a fever, consult your family doctor or an ENT right away.