At my daughter’s 2 month check-up, my pediatrician pronounced her perfect and looked at her and said “No ear infections for you!” I shuddered and echoed her sentiments. We both vividly remember the series of ear infections that my son had during his first year. From the time he was 8-months-old until he got ear tubes at 18 months, he got an ear infection every 6-8 weeks. When his surgeon came to talk to me after the tube procedure, he told me there was a reservoir of gunk trapped in his ears that was the consistency of rubber cement. A perfect environment for bacteria to breed and cause infections.
Ear infections can be tricky to recognize. There are common symptoms and signs that you can look for like a cold, fussiness, fatigue, a fever, a child pulling on her ear. Or there can be none of the above. That was what happened with my son. There was usually only one way we knew he had an ear infection.
His sleep cycle would fall apart.
The first ear infection he had was when he was about 8-months-old. He had been a good sleeper up until that point, but all of a sudden he was waking and sobbing during the night. My husband and I were baffled. We were exhausted and stressed. Suddenly we had a baby who cried all night. We sat in our room listening to his sobs and talked about what our next steps should be. Sleep training? Trying to ride it out in the hopes that he’d improve? Finally, I suggested taking him to the doctor to rule out illness before we made any sleep training choices. My husband took him in the next day and, lo an behold, he had an ear infection. After 24 hours on antibiotics, he was sleeping like a champ again.
We learned to recognize the broken sleep of an ear infection quickly after that. The continual cycle of infections eventually led us to a consult with an ear-nose-and-throat specialist who checked his hearing and said that it was compromised and he would need surgery to clean our his ears and place tubes to prevent future infections. We went ahead with it – after a delay for another ear infection – and his whole health profile changed. He got fewer colds, recovered faster and we never saw another ear infection. Getting tubes was one of the smartest choices that we made for our boy.
The take-away from our experience with recurrent ear infections is that when a child acts dramatically out of character, it’s worth a stop at the pediatricians office to get checked out. You never know what may be lurking under the surface.
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