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Protecting Your Kid's Ears from Winter Weather

Protecting Your Kid's Ears from Winter Weather

Remember when you were a child and the joy of playing in the snow?

As adults we tend to forget about the wonder of a snow-white world and focus on the inconvenience and difficulties it causes. But kids see things differently and to them a snowy world is a wondrous place where snowmen need to be built and snowball fights await.

Of course as parents we should encourage our children to forgo the computer screen and get outside into the crisp fresh air. The cold weather can also bring with it coughs and sneezes and other problems such as earache, but a few simple precautions can help keep children well in bad weather.

Ear infections are more common in the winter because there are more coughs and colds about. A sore throat causes inflammation which can narrow of block the Eustachian tube. The latter is a fine tube which connects the throat to the middle ear. It is this tube that allows the pressure across the eardrum to equalize when on an air flight. The Eustachian tube also allows bacteria to drain out of the middle ear, which helps keep it healthy and infection free.

However, when a child has a sore throat, the chances are the Eustachian tube becomes inflamed and narrowed. This makes it more difficult for fluid or bacteria to drain out of the middle. If a significant amount builds up then the pressure builds and an infection may develop.

Ear infections are horribly painful and your child may complain of anything from a persistent nagging ache to intense stabbing pain in the ear which gets worse when they swallow. It’s important your child is seen by a physician, since untreated there is a risk of the eardrum rupturing, which is extremely painful.

Taking some simple precautions can help decrease the risk of ear infections. For a start, encourage your child to wash their hands before eating or putting anything in their mouth. Many cold or flu bugs are readily picked up by touching surfaces that an infected person has sneezed on. Simply washing hands to avoid transferring these bugs into their mouth, can help keep a child healthy.

Likewise, exposing the ear to the cold reduces the blood flow to the ear, which in turn reduces its ability to fight infections. Encourage the child to wear ear muffs or a woolly hat, in order to keep their ears warm whilst outdoors. This has the added benefit of insulating the ear flap and cut the risk of frostbite in severe weather.

Frostbitten tissue is often pale, gray and has a blistered appearance. The child may complain that the area is either numb or burns intensely. Gently the warm the area by covering with a warm (not hot) washcloth, but avoid rubbing. Wrap the child in warm blankets and offer them a warm drink. If the numbness continues for several minutes, call a physician.