February is ear, nose and throat health month, and any parent whose child has had an ear infection knows how important this is. Ear infections are common in babies and children, but they can be prevented by focusing on cold and flu prevention and family hygiene, a CHOC Children’s physician says.
Frequent hand-washing by all family members helps cut down on the spreading of germs, and it’s also important to discourage children from rubbing their hands on their faces or in their eyes, says Dr. Nguyen Pham, an ear, nose and throat specialist.
“Try to do whatever you can to keep your child from getting a cold or the flu because they lead to ear infections,” says Dr. Pham. “It’s rare a child will get an ear infection without having a cold.”
If a family member has a bad cold or cough, limit contact between the sick person and others at home. Keep children away from people who are sick to the extent possible. If a child has a bad cold, keep him or her home from school or daycare so the other children won’t be exposed.
Also, parents should ensure their child gets the influenza, or flu, vaccine every year, Dr. Pham advises.
“You can also get the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine,” he says. “This vaccine can lead to a reduction in frequent ear infections in some children. Parents can ask their pediatrician about this option.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, studies have shown that vaccinated children get far fewer ear infections than children who aren’t vaccinated.
Other things parents can do to prevent ear infections include avoiding exposing babies and young children to cigarette smoke (studies have shown that babies who are around smokers have more ear infections), and never putting a baby down for a nap or for the night with a bottle.
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