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Is it true that colds cause babies to get ear infections?

The BabyCenter Editorial Team

Yes. A cold is often to blame when a baby develops an ear infection.

Here's what happens: When your baby has a cold, his eustachian tubes — the tubes that connect the middle ear to the back of the throat — can become blocked. This traps fluid and bacteria in the middle ear, creating the perfect environment for an ear infection.

Babies, toddlers, and preschoolers are especially prone to this buildup because their eustachian tubes are shorter, narrower, and more horizontal than those of older children. (As a child grows, these tubes lengthen and become more vertical, allowing fluid to drain more easily.)

The fluid-filled ear is very hospitable to bacteria, which thrive in dark, warm, wet places. As the bacteria multiply, the baby may develop swelling and pain in and around the eardrum.

Unfortunately, it's a pretty common scenario. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) estimates that 3 out of 4 children will have an ear infection before the age of 3.

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