Ear infections can be extremely painful. It’s easy to know when one of your children has one if he or she is old enough to speak. But what if it is an infant or very young child that you are concerned about? Here are some signs to look for that can help you to identify an ear infection in an infant.

Is the child increasingly irritable? While this can be a symptom of many different conditions, when combined with the other symptoms that follow, it points to an ear infection. For example, pulling at one or both ears is a telltale sign of an ear infection. Your baby may also experience difficulty sleeping. Fever can occur. Fluid may also leak from the ear that is infected.

If your child is old enough to crawl or walk, you may notice balance problems which occur as a result of the ear infection. Try whispering to the baby on the side where the infection seems to be. Oftentimes an ear infection will cause diminished hearing. It may also affect the appetite of the child.

If your child does seem to have an ear infection, do not delay in seeking medical attention. Many more serious conditions can occur if an ear infection goes untreated. The infection could grow more serious and spread to the brain. Temporary hearing loss related to the infection can become permanent. Permanent hearing damage can also lead to speech problems.

The doctor will usually prescribe an antibiotic and may also give you ear drops for your child. Be sure to complete whatever treatment is provided, including any follow-up visits that are scheduled. Ear infections in children frequently recur, and it may take more than one antibiotic to do the job. Severe cases where infections persist for several months may call for temporary tubes being placed in the Eustachian tubes to keep them open in order to alleviate pressure.