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Ear Infections: Symptoms

Because ear infections are most often preceded by a cold, they are sometimes hard to detect. A mother can tell if her baby is getting an ear infection because he might not want to lie down or may nurse differently after having a cold. (The pressure caused by fluid in the middle ear sometimes makes it painful to be horizontal or to swallow.) If you see any of these signs, check in with your pediatrician:

  • Pain
  • Fever
  • Red, bulging eardrum
  • Yellow or white discharge from the ear
  • Yellow drainage from the inside corners of the eyes
  • Thick, mucus-y nasal secretions
  • The desire to be held more than usual
  • Increased crankiness and irritability
  • Ear tugging
  • Blue circles under the eyes
  • Droopy eyes
  • Overall expression that says, “I’m feeling really lousy.”
  • Some temporary hearing loss

Some temporary hearing loss almost always accompanies fluid in the ear -- with or without infection. On rare occasions, a chronic, untreated infection can perforate the eardrum or cause it to collapse, which may impair hearing if not surgically corrected. Or it can progress to a part of the inner ear, such as the cochlea, which also results in permanent hearing loss, so monitor your child and check in with your doctor.

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