Simple Factors Might Reduce Ear Infections

Ear infection rates might be lowered as result of breastfeeding, vaccines, other factors

(RxWiki News) Higher rates of breastfeeding, use of vaccinations and lower rates of smoking may be behind lower rates of ear infections in recent years, a new study found.

In this new study, researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) sought to determine the connection between specific factors, such as babies who are breastfed, and the development of ear infections.

Rates of ear infections during babies' first year have declined when compared to data from the late 1980s and '90s.

From October 2008 to March 2014, this study followed 367 babies who were less than one month old through their first birthday.

Throughout this study, study personnel gathered nose and throat mucus samples to look for infections. They also communicated with parents to identify any additional infections that may have been missed in the samples.

The study personnel evaluated information on family history of ear infections, cigarette smoke exposure, and breast versus formula feeding to determine the link between these factors and ear infection rates.

"We clearly showed that frequent upper respiratory infections, carriage of bacteria in the nose, and lack of breastfeeding are major risk factors for ear infections,” said lead study author Dr. Tasnee Chonmaitree, a professor of pediatrics at UTMB, in a press release. “Prolonged breastfeeding was associated with significant reductions in both colds and ear infections. ... It is likely that medical interventions in the past few decades, such as the use of pneumonia and flu vaccines and decreased smoking, helped reduce ear infection incidences.”

Speak to your child's pediatrician about risk factors for ear infections and how to best manage them.

This study was recently published in Pediatrics. The National Institutes of Health funded this research. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

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Review Date: 
March 30, 2016