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  • Writer's pictureDr. Koralla Raja Meghanadh

How Otitis Media Affects Babies: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Updated: Dec 14, 2023


Babies often doze off while sipping on milk, thanks to a natural sleep-promoting protein. They find joy in relishing the sweet taste, letting the milk linger in their mouths. However, this seemingly innocent habit can lead to issues like ear infections (otitis media) and colds (rhinitis or nasal infections).

Here's a comprehensive guide to how Otitis Media affects babies, its causes, symptoms, and available treatments.

Medical Disclaimer: This article is meant for informational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice. Always consult a healthcare professional for diagnosis and treatment options.

Otitis Media Affects Babies: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

What is Otitis Media?

Otitis Media is an infection or inflammation in the middle ear located behind the eardrum. Think of the middle ear as a small room crucial for proper eardrum vibration. It requires a steady air supply facilitated by the eustachian tube connecting it to the nasopharynx at the back of the nose. Fluids entering this area can lead to a middle ear infection.

To learn more about Otitis Media, click here.

Causes of Otitis Media in Babies

Sleeping with Milk in Mouth

Milk in the mouth can spoil faster than in a regular environment due to the presence of bacteria in our mouths. Unlike when they're awake, and the milk goes down to the stomach, during sleep, the milk might remain in the mouth and get spoilt and then slip into the back of the nose.

As we mentioned before, the back of the nose is connected to both the middle ear and the nose. So, if the milk goes into the nose or ear, it can cause a cold or an ear infection.

Anatomy and Development

In babies, ear tubes are flatter due to smaller heads, making it easier for substances like sour milk to enter the middle ear. As babies grow, their heads enlarge, and the tubes tilt, reducing this risk.

Symptoms in Babies

  1. Persistent Crying: Babies will cry when in pain, and ear infections can be uncomfortable and painful.

  2. Rubbing or Pulling at Ears: Older babies might tug at their ears as an indication of discomfort.

  3. Fever: A fever is often a sign of an underlying infection and should not be ignored.

  4. Difficulty in Sleeping: The pain may disturb their sleep, making them more irritable.


Diagnosis of Otitis Media in babies usually involves a doctor examining the baby's ear with an otoscope, a specialized instrument that allows doctors to look into the ear canal and assess the condition of the middle ear.

Treatment Options for a baby

  1. Saline nose drops can be used as a preliminary treatment. These drops contain 0.9% Sodium Chloride, which helps dilute secretions and wash out bacteria.

  2. Antibiotics may be prescribed by a healthcare provider to deal with the infection.

Prevention is Better Than Cure

There are simply two steps to prevent this issue.

  1. Feeding Position: Always feed a baby at a slight incline to minimize the risk of milk entering the Eustachian tube.

  2. Burping: Make sure to burp the baby after feeding to reduce the likelihood of milk backing up into the middle ear.


Otitis Media is a common condition among babies but can be easily avoided with proper feeding habits.

Note: Always consult a healthcare professional for accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

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