Ear Home > Preventing Ear Infections

Preventing ear infections begins with understanding the risk factors that increase the chances of developing them. Risk factors for ear infections include exposure to cigarette smoke, allergies, and certain birth defects (such as Down syndrome). Suggestions for preventing ear infections in children include educating yourself about the common symptoms of ear infections and not smoking around your child.

Can Ear Infections Be Prevented?

Anything that increases a person's chance of developing ear infections is called an ear infection risk factor; anything that decreases a person's chance of developing an ear infection is called an ear infection protective factor. Ear infection prevention means avoiding the risk factors and increasing the protective factors that can be controlled. While this does not guarantee that someone will not develop ear infection, it does decrease the chances.
Know the Risk Factors
Some of the risk factors for ear infection can be avoided, but many cannot. Specific ear infection risk factors for children include:
  • Being cared for in group settings
  • Living with adults who smoke cigarettes
  • Nursing from a bottle while lying down (infants)
  • Allergies
  • Certain birth defects such as cleft palate, Down syndrome, and nervous system abnormalities.
Also, children who have been breastfed often have fewer ear infections.
Research has shown that cold and allergy medications (such as antihistamines and decongestants) are not helpful in preventing ear infections.

Suggestions for Preventing Ear Infections

There are a few things you can do to lower your child's risk of getting an ear infection:
  • Pay attention. The best thing you can do is to pay attention to your child. Know the common ear infection symptoms and be on the lookout if your child gets a cold. If you think your child has an ear infection, call the doctor.
  • Do not smoke around your child. Smoke is not good for the delicate parts inside your child's ear.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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