Many parents know all too well how painful ear infections can be for their little ones. The pain, the fever, and not to mention the lack of sleep they cause for both parent and child. However, a recent study has revealed that infant ear infections have in fact gone down over the past two decades; noting a few factors contributing to this, including breast feeding and vaccines.
The team analyzed over 300 babies between the time they were one month old, to a year. They looked at ear infection, as well as common colds cases, and analyzed the differing factors that could enhance a baby’s risk of getting an ear infection. These factors included whether or not the children were breast fed, viruses and bacteria in their nose and throat, as well as exposure to second-hand smoking.
During this time, about 46 percent of the babies in the study did have an ear infection by the time they hit their first birthday; an improvement compared to past studies conducted in the ‘80s and ‘90s, which resulted in 60% of the young kids developing an ear infection during their first 12 months.
While this recent study only looked at babies in Galveston, Texas – and the past research was conducted in other parts of the U.S. – lead author Dr. Tasnee Chonmaitree, University of Texas believes these past studies identified the rates around ear infections for the entire country; and thinks that the lower rates in her study reflect the same.
CNN advises that while ear infections lead the pack when it comes to pediatrician visits for children, the reduction in this illness can be linked to an increase in breast-feeding moms, a decrease in cigarette smoke exposure, and the pneumococcal vaccine. Prevnar 13, which was introduced in 2000 helps prevent 13 kinds of pneumococcal bacteria, and doctors recommend the shot for babies that are two months and up.
The research team discovered that Streptococcus pneumoniae found in the throat and nose created and increased risk by 165 times, for babies to develop an ear infection. Other viruses linked to enhanced ear infection cases include the common cold and flu. In fact, of the over 850 cases of the common cold within the study, more than 20 percent of the babies developed an ear infection days later.
When it comes to breast feeding, the research team discovered that those little ones that were solely breast fed for at least the first six months of their lives were over 60 percent less likely to develop an ear infection. Chonmaitree notes this could be thanks to the maternal antibodies that are passed on from mom to baby, through breast milk.
In addition, the research team did not include cigarette smoke exposure as a risk, however this was mainly due to the fact that there were far too few participants in the study that had second-hand smoke exposure to truly reveal an increase in risk. However, Chonmaitree notes that she believes this decrease, as it relates to smoking, has had a significant impact to a reduction in ear infections as well.