Having an illness that we don’t know about is one of the top fears amongst moms, whether it’s your first baby or you’ve got a brood full already. There is no way a baby can tell us they are unwell, and the fussiness that could indicate and illness could also be teething, tiredness, a growth spurt or the sign of a coming wonder week.

Ear infections are very common. About half of all babies will have an infection before their first birthday, and ear infections are the second most common diagnosis of illness (the common cold is the first).

The telltale signs of an ear infection are:

  • Cold or flu symptoms (ear infections can often develop after a cold or flu)
  • Fussiness that is lasting (and doesn’t go away throughout the day)
  • Fever (although lots of ear infections also come without a fever)
  • Discomfort when sucking (dummies, pacifiers or feeding)
  • Additional fussiness when laying flat
  • Squirming when being held and rubbing their head against you
  • Disrupted sleep, both at night and during nap time

One common misconception is that babies will pull at their ears if they have an infection, but this is not true. According to Dr Sears, babies under one year of age are not able to localize their pain, which means that even though they will be really uncomfortable, they will not associate this with their ears.

What to do if you suspect your baby has an ear infection

Go to the doctor! Your baby will most likely need antibiotics and apart from paracetamol there is nothing you can do at home to make your baby more comfortable, and paracetamol definitely won’t cure the problem.


Photo by Steve Johnson, used under Creative Commons License