A young children is prone to ear infections called Otitis Media because of their developing head and neck structures.
One of these developing structures is the eustachian tube, which is a small connection between the back of the ear and the back of the nose. The eustachian tube allows for the regulation of air pressure and drainage from the middle ear space into the back of the nose. The pain builds as the pressure in the ear builds. With ear infections there can be a dull ache to a sharp stabbing pain. The pressure is relieved intermittently, so the pain comes in waves. The pain is worse at night.
In children the eustachian tube is not very well developed, which causes a back-up (reflux) of infected fluid from the nose into the ear.
Children are much more prone to upper respiratory infections of all kinds.
Other risk factors that may cause a child to get an ear infection includes:
- Day care attendance
- Smoking in the household
- Lack of breast feeding.
A combination of these risk factors, plus a poorly developed eustachian tube, often leads to otitis media in a young child.
When a child reaches the age of 5-7 the eustachian tube usually reaches adequate function, causing a dramatic decrease in the frequency and severity of ear infections.