Have you ever wondered why ear infections often happen when your child has a cold? Colds are one of the most common causes of ear infections. Ear infections affect the middle ear, the area behind the eardrum. Normally, a small tube called the eustachian tube connects the middle ear to the back of the throat. The eustachian tube opens and closes to balance gas pressure between the inner ear and the outside world and to clear fluid from the middle ear. However, respiratory problems like colds and allergies can cause this tube to become blocked. When this happens, less air flows into the middle ear, disrupting the balance of pressure, and less fluid is cleared out, which makes the middle ear warm and damp—an excellent place for bacteria to grow. Eustachian tube blockage is more likely in infants and young children compared with adults because their less developed eustachian tubes are shorter, flatter, and floppier. Thus, symptoms of an ear infection, such as ear pain and fever, happen because there is pressure on the eardrum and harmful bacteria are growing in the middle ear.
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