Kids can get a lot of ear infections. In fact, 2 out of 3 times, when kids get colds, they also wind up with infections in their ears. The main reasons are that their immune systems are immature and that their little ears don’t drain as well as adults’ ears do.
An infection in the outer ear is often called Swimmer’s Ear. It usually happens when the ear stays wet long enough to breed germs. But even if your kid hasn’t been swimming, a scratch from something like a cotton swab (or who knows what kids stick in there?) can cause trouble. Watch out if your child’s ear gets itchy or hurts when touched. The answer is usually just medicated ear drops and keeping ears dry.
The only way to know for sure if your child has an ear infection is for a doctor to check inside her ear with a device called an otoscope. This is basically just a tiny flashlight with a magnifying lens for the doctor to look through. A healthy eardrum (shown here) looks sort of clear and pinkish-gray. An infected eardrum looks red and swollen.
The Eustachian tube is a canal that connects your middle ear to your throat. It keeps fluid and air pressure from building up inside your ear. Colds, flu, and allergies can all irritate the Eustachian tube and cause it to swell up.