What can I do to prevent ear infections in myself and my child?

Here are some ways to reduce risk of ear infections in you or your child:

  • Don’t smoke. Studies have shown that second-hand smoking increases the likelihood of ear infections. Be sure no one smokes in the house or car — especially when children are present — or at your day care facility.
  • Control allergies. Inflammation and mucus caused by allergic reactions can block the eustachian tube and make ear infections more likely.
  • Prevent colds. Reduce your child's exposure to colds during the first year of life. Don’t share toys, foods, drinking cups or utensils. Wash your hands frequently. Most ear infections start with a cold. If possible, try to delay the use of large day care centers during the first year.
  • Breastfeed your baby. Breastfeed your baby during the first 6 to 12 months of life. Antibodies in breast milk reduce the rate of ear infections.
  • Bottle feed baby in upright angle. If you bottle feed, hold your baby in an upright angle (head higher than stomach). Feeding in the horizontal position can cause formula and other fluids to flow back into the eustachian tubes. Allowing an infant to hold his or her own bottle also can cause milk to drain into the middle ear. Weaning your baby from a bottle between nine and 12 months of age will help stop this problem.
  • Watch for mouth breathing or snoring. Constant snoring or breathing through the mouth may be caused by large adenoids. These may contribute to ear infections. An exam by an otolaryngologist, and even surgery to remove the adenoids (adenoidectomy), may be necessary.
  • Get vaccinations. Make sure your child’s immunizations are up to date, including yearly influenza vaccine (flu shot) for those 6 months and older. Ask your doctor about the pneumococcal, meningitis and other vaccines too. Preventing viral infections and other infections help prevent ear infections.

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