About 46 percent of infants get at least one ear infection by their
first birthday, and this remains the leading reason for infant sick
visits and antibiotic prescriptions. But that’s down from at least
60 percent as recently as the 1990s, researchers report in the
Babies in the study were much less likely to get ear infections if
they were breastfed and if they received vaccines to protect against
flu and against Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria, which can cause
infections of the ears, sinuses, lungs, and blood.
“Parents should make sure their children receive bacterial and flu
vaccines as recommended, breastfeed them as recommended, avoid
cigarette smoke exposure and exposure to someone with common cold,”
said lead study author Dr. Tasnee Chonmaitree of the University of
Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.
These measures will help lower the odds of ear infections, even if
they can’t always be avoided as a complication of the common cold.
“The common cold often leads to bacterial and viral ear infections,
therefore ear infections are still common, although the incidence is
down,” Chonmaitree added by email.
Chonmaitree and colleagues followed 367 healthy babies during their
first year of life, monitoring them for at least six months or until
they developed an ear infection.
During the study period, 305 infants had respiratory infections that
can lead to ear infections, and 180 ear infections were documented
in a total of 143 babies.
Breastfeeding significantly reduced the risk of both upper
respiratory infections and ear infections. Exclusive breastfeeding
for at least three months, longer duration of breastfeeding, and
delayed start of exclusive formula feeding were all associated with
lower risk of ear infections.
Pediatricians recommend that mothers exclusively breastfeed infants
until at least six months of age because it can reduce babies’ risk
of ear and respiratory infections, sudden infant death syndrome,
allergies, childhood obesity and diabetes.
Babies can receive the pneumococcal vaccine starting at two months
of age. They need a series of booster shots to increase the
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Children born after 2010 who received a newer version of the
pneumococcal vaccine that protects against more strains appeared to
have fewer ear infections, but the difference was too small to rule
out the possibility that it was due to chance. The study may not
have included enough ear infections to prove the benefit of this
vaccine, but it is likely to have influenced the decline ear
infections, the authors conclude.
Less exposure to cigarette smoke was also associated with fewer ear
infections, though these results too, weren’t statistically
“Interventions that reduce the level of bad germs in a child’s nose
and throat will help reduce ear infections,” said Dr. Richard
Rosenfeld, chairman of ear, nose and throat medicine at SUNY
Downstate Medical Center in New York.
“Breastfeeding helps boost a child’s immune system by providing
antibodies and immune globulins that fight germs,” Rosenfeld added
by email. “Decreased smoke exposure reduces irritation of the mucus
membrane lining of the nose and Eustachian tube, which makes it
harder for germs to grow and reach the middle ear.”
“Last, new vaccines make children more resistant to the common
bacteria and viruses that trigger ear infections.”
SOURCE: http://bit.ly/1Srf2cE Pediatrics, online March 28, 2016.
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