How can ear infections be prevented?

Q: What are some ways to prevent ear infections in kids?

A: Most kids start having fewer ear infections after age 5 or 6, when their immune systems and are ear tubes are more developed. Until then, these strategies may help lower your child's risk of getting sick:• Soap up more often: Hand washing is the best way to keep germs at bay, especially for kids in daycare or playgroups, who tend to be more prone to ear infections than children who aren't around other kids as much.• Breastfeed as long as you can: Immune-boosting antibodies are transmitted to your baby through breast milk, helping to prevent illness.• Don't feed your baby while she's lying down flat: Breast- or bottle-feeding your child horizontally makes it more likely that fluid will pool at the back of the throat and nose -- and possibly to back up into the ears -- instead of down the esophagus.• Limit pacifier use: The sucking motion triggers the eustachian tube to open and close, allowing mucus and bacteria from the back of the throat and nose to enter the middle ear. Also, pacifiers that aren't cleaned regularly may collect germs that can then travel up the back of the throat and collect in the ear tubes.• Stop smoking or exposing kids to secondhand smoke: Children who inhale cigarette fumes are more likely to get ear infections than those who don't. Experts believe the toxins can weaken the immune system. --Alisa Stoudt

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