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Preventing Ear Aches in Kids [11/03-1]

Ear aches are the second major problem in young children, and one simple way to reduce the risk is to protect the child from exposure to secondhand smoke.

Here are excerpts from a recent article:

A COMMON COMPLAINT; OTHER THAN COLDS,
EAR ACHES PLAGUE KIDS THE MOST

Theresa Kump, New York Times Service.

Most children will have at least one ear infection by the time they are 3 years old. In fact, ear infections account for 24.5 million visits to the pediatrician each year.

Middle-ear infections are the second most common childhood illness, surpassed only by the common cold, says Dr. Sylvan Stool, a pediatric ear-nose-and-throat specialist at Children's Hospital in Denver.

Q: If ear infections are so common, why are they cause for concern?

A: Frequent ear infections or those that go untreated may lead to persistent hearing loss, which can cause speech delays in a young child.

Since normal hearing is critical for speech and language development in the first three years of life, it's important to contact your pediatrician if you suspect an ear infection in your child.

In rare cases, untreated ear infections can lead to more serious complications, such as mastoiditis, an infection of the skull behind the ear, and meningitis, an inflammation of the membranes around the brain and spinal cord, as well as balance problems and permanent hearing loss.

TIPS ON PREVENTION

There's no sure-fire way to prevent ear infections, but there are some things you can do to reduce their frequency.

Stamp out smoke. Children who are exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke are at risk for developing a number of health problems. According to a recent study by the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester, passive smoke may be responsible for as many as 2.2 million ear infections each year.

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