When my daughter was a baby, she frequently pulled at her ears -- often hard enough to leave red marks. Every time she would start engaging in this common baby behavior, I would take her to the pediatrician, only to be told that everything was fine and that I could simply ignore the behavior. If your baby frequently pulls at her ears, there are several things that could be causing her to do so. After talking to my daughter's doctor, I found out that many conditions, as well as benign habits, can cause this behavior. Here are some possibilities.
Your baby may pull her ears because of an infection. Ear infections are frequently very painful, and babies may react to them in the only way they know how-- by pulling and tugging on nearby external points. For this reason, it's always wise to check with your baby's doctor any time you see this behavior, since it may be one of the only symptoms of an ear infection that your baby shows.
Your baby might have fluid in her ears. Fluid in the ears, which is not necessarily caused by infection, can cause the same symptoms of as an ear infection. If your baby has a virus or allergies, she may end up with fluid packed at uncomfortable points inside her ear, which can cause her to pull on it in an attempt to relieve the pain. Since the symptoms are nearly identical to an ear infection, take your baby to the doctor to rule out this possibility and to find effective treatment options.
It may just be a habit. Your baby may be pulling on her ears because she's simply developed a nervous habit of tugging on her earlobes. Repeated behaviors can be comforting to children, who crave consistency and familiarity. Ear-tugging and other habits can be soothing to babies, especially if they began doing it while dealing with illness.
Teething pain may cause your baby to pull her ears. The gums and ears are close to one another, and teething pain can radiate to other areas of your baby's head and face. When your baby has teething pain that seems to come from at or around the earlobe, she may begin tugging her ear in an attempt to relieve the discomfort. If your baby starts pulling her ear while teething, it's quite possible that the tooth pain is to blame.
Your baby may have impacted wax in her ear. Large amounts of ear wax in your baby's ear canal can cause a burning, itching or pressurized sensation, causing your baby to pull her earlobes. If this is the case, your pediatrician may recommend techniques to flush ear wax out of the canal.
Ear tugging can be a sign of an ear infection or other conditions warranting treatment, so parents should always defer to professional judgment when a baby begins pulling on her ear. Check with your pediatrician if your baby shows this symptom, or any other behavior that might concern you. Visit Mayo Clinic for more information about symptoms of ear infections in people of all ages.
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