Why Do Babies Ears Smell? All Things You Need To Know

Ah, the smell of babies – fresh, light, and . . . icky? Contrary to what many people, especially parents, believe, infants can have a wide variety of odors in different parts of the body. But while many of them don’t mean anything other than he needs some cleaning, they may imply a visit to the doctor or more attention to the stinky body part. Take, for example, baby ears smell.

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Why Do Their Ears Smell?

When the baby’s ears smell, the reason usually falls into two possible causes: excessive moisture and infection.

First, let’s talk about excessive moisture. When babies take a bath, you make sure you cover every part of their body, from their head to their toe. You soap and rinse them with tepid water. Then you see to it you dry them properly.

However, more often than not, parents forget about the less-conspicuous folds such as those behind the ears. Water can still accumulate there, and when left to become damp, they can invite the buildup of bacteria. They can then lead to smelly ears. The problem is very similar to the presence of yeast on the armpits or the groin.

Another possible explanation for the nasty-smelling ears is infection called otitis media. The insides of the ears, particularly the middle ear, can develop pus and release a white liquid discharge. In some cases when they don’t, the presence of infection is enough for the ears to reek of bad smell. 

Causes of Ear Infection

It may be easy to blame the poor drying of the baby’s ears for the aural infection, but there are other reasons:

1. Nasal and throat problems

In human anatomy, the ears, throat, and nose are interconnected. The nasal cavity contains mucus, which doesn’t only lubricate but also helps trap dirt and harmful microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses. You don’t expel mucus, but it travels to the back of the throat and combines with your saliva so you can swallow it. It may sound disgusting, but that’s how the body works.

In the meantime, the Eustachian tube, which is part of the middle ear, helps regulate the pressure of air that enters the ears and removes secretions. It connects to the throat through the nasal passage. Because of this interconnectedness, any bacteria or viruses that invade either the nose or the throat can also travel toward the ears.

2. Allergies

Babies are actually not prone to some types of allergies such as pollen since they don’t spend a lot of time outdoors. However, that doesn’t mean they won’t get allergies at all. Their bodies can still react negatively to a lot of things such as pet dander, dirt, dust, and even food.

An allergic reaction is a normal immune response to threats. When the body feels it is being invaded by something harmful, the immune system goes into a hyper drive, trying to fight it. In the process, it releases histamine, which then causes a lot of changes and effects such as itching. It also increases the production of mucus in various parts of the body such as the ears, and this excess can lead to clogging of the Eustachian tube.

These two causes can also occur among adults, but the babies are more vulnerable since their tubes are still narrow and thus clog more quickly.

How to Know if Babies Are Having an Infection

Some of the signs and symptoms to watch out for are the following:

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    Fever – Babies may develop slight to high fever as the body’s immune system tries to fight the bacteria or virus.
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    Restlessness – Infants who are not feeling well are usually very skittish than usual. They may cry more often even after they have been fed, and they may not sleep very well. This is understandable since they don’t know how to deal with the symptoms and the changes in their bodies brought about by their illness.
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    Tugging and scratching of the ears – Bacterial or viral infection doesn’t just cause smelly ears. It may also make their ears itchy, so to deal with them, babies can scratch and tug their ears sometimes until they bleed.
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    Hearing changes – Babies hear before they see. In fact, they can already hear sounds in utero (especially around 23 to 27 weeks). Around this time, your doctor may encourage you to talk with your baby or play some lullabies or baby music near your tummy. So if there are changes to the way babies respond to sound, it demands a further investigation.
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    Leak – In some cases, the infection will cause the release of a sticky white discharge from the ears. It can be very foul smelling, and unless the condition is treated, you will continue to see the fluid oozing out from the ears.

What to Do When Babies Have an Infection

Usually, when adults have an infection, they immediately think of antibiotics. Pediatricians, however, do not give such medications to babies immediately for a number of reasons:

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    It may take a couple of days, but the condition can disappear on its own.
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    Antibiotics don’t work if the cause of the infection is a virus.
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    Giving antibiotics may only increase the risk of resistance. This means the bacteria may evolve and develop immunity against the medication. When the same infection occurs, it becomes much harder to treat.
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    Some infants can develop a serious, life-threatening allergic reaction to the medication.

However, in severe cases, such as when the symptoms become progressive or the condition hasn’t changed within the next 48 to 72 hours, doctors may prescribe an antibiotic. This is because when left untreated, the infection can lead to other health problems including meningitis (swelling of the brain), facial paralysis, and conductive hearing loss.

In Summary...

The best ways to deal with an ear infection among babies is supportive. You can apply a warm compress every 15 minutes to relieve the pain and the itching. If the cause is an allergic reaction, getting rid of the source will already do wonders. Pediatricians may also encourage a more aggressive fluid therapy to minimize the effects of excess mucus. 

Stacy Belk
 

My name is Stacy Belk, I am a nurse, midwife and mother of two children. I would like to share my experiences in taking care of children including activities to do together, recipes to cook, good products to buy and health protection to your family. Do a search now if you like, all you need is here.

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