Thursday, February 14, 2008

Those pesky ear infections

Many mothers are troubled by the frequency of ear infections in their young babies. The pain and discomfort suffered by the child can be alarming for first time mothers, as can the frequent prescription of antibiotics. Fortunately, there is a great website for getting educated on ear infections, forwarded to me by a caring, devoted mom:

It takes about an hour to review all the information, so for all of you who are less than devoted, or would rather spend that hour on, here’s a quick summary:

Symptoms of an ear infection include fussiness, loss of appetite, low grade fever, pulling at the ears, sleeplessness, and screaming while pointing to the offending ear while “flipping the bird” to Mom with the other hand.

Unfortunately, due to the small size of the ear “tubes,” at this age, ear infections are not only common but normal, according to my pediatrician, who apparently specializes in maddening infant afflictions for which there seem to be no cause or cure. However, there are some preventative steps you can take:

1) Do not feed your baby his bottle in his crib. If he drinks while lying on his back, chances of developing an ear infection increase. In addition, milk or formula consumed while lying flat has a tendency to pool in the mouth, causing tooth decay. If you can’t be bothered to feed your baby his morning bottle yourself instead of climbing back into bed, perhaps you should ask yourself what kind of mother you really are.
2) Take immediate action at the first sign of a cold, or congestion in your baby. During winter months, avoid malls, playgroups and daycare. If you notice a runny nose, coughing, labored breathing or your infant attempting to plug in the humidifier you dug out from the basement but never turned on, you’ve got a congestion problem. Immediately limit your outings by staying in the house with your baby for the months of January through April. If you go out under the auspices of “grocery shopping” but instead head to Sak’s or a spa, we’ll know.
3) Bath time mistakes – Submerging your infant underwater during bath time is a surefire way to get an ear infection, even if he seems to enjoy it. Objects like Q-tips, washcloths, pipe cleaners an rubber duckies should not be forced too deeply into the ear canal, especially when wet. When drying baby, do not hold him upside down or shake him, even if he again indicates amusement at such activities. You’re older and you should know better. Do not use a hairdryer on his ears. They will dry on their own.
4) Refrain from unearthing your husband’s Power Washer from the garage. Flushing the canal, particularly with this kind of force, while tempting, will just do no good at all.

Finally, when you pick up the dreaded antibiotic prescription, read the directions. Some of them need to be mixed with water, and some actually need to be refrigerated. Some are given once a day, some are three times a day, some every other day - for God’s sake, read the instructions.

Give ALL the medication prescribed, even if you think you and your baby are those “special” people who don’t need to follow the rules like everyone else. Perhaps you feel you’re not responsible for the national epidemic of failing antigens due to strengthening strains of bugs caused by people who only take their medication until they feel like it, or until they decide they’re “all better.” Jesus, they drive me bonkers!

Take your drugs, all of them!

Finally, take your baby for regular visits to his pediatrician, no matter how much the co-pay is.

If you follow these simple instructions, there’s no guarantee whatsoever that the ear infections will either stop or lessen in severity. In fact, they probably will do neither. But at least you can rest assured that as usual, you’ve consumed all the latest available information in vain.

Happy parenting!

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