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Ear Infections Statistic
More than 80 percent of children have had an ear infection by age three, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
*Source: American Academy of Pediatrics

Pediatric Ear Infection Overview

Ear infections are very common among children – especially babies and toddlers – with only the common cold being diagnosed more frequently by pediatricians. There are two main types of ear infections: the outer ear infection, also called otitis externa or “swimmer’s ear,” which occurs when your child gets water in his/her ear, leading to inflammation; and middle ear infection, called acute otitis media. Outer ear infections are marked by pain when the outer earlobes are touched or massaged, and sometimes by discharge coming from the ear. Middle ear infections, which occur behind the eardrum, are marked by pain, fever and irritability – caused by an infection in the Eustachian (eu-sta-chian) tube, that connects the middle ear to the nose.


Even though ear infections are common among children, pediatricians need to examine them to make sure what looks like an infection actually is an infection. Symptoms of middle ear infections include:

  • Pulling and tugging on the ear (typically among babies and toddlers)
  • Earache
  • Decreased hearing
  • Fever
  • Irritability or difficulty sleeping especially when lying down
  • Discharge from the ear
  • Accompanying upper respiratory infection symptoms

Risk Factors

There are numerous risk factors associated with middle ear infections, typically tied to either the unique health profile of your child or environmental factors. Health risk factors include:

  • Age
  • History of seasonal allergies
  • Frequency of upper respiratory illness
  • Presence of enlarged adenoids – a clump of tissue in the back of the nose
  • Bottle-fed
  • Pacifier use

Environmental risk factors include:

  • Smoking in the household
  • Daycare attendance