The easiest way to tell if your baby has an ear infection (also known as acute otitis media) — or any other illness, for that matter — is a change in his mood. If he turns fussy, or starts crying more than usual, you should be on the lookout for a problem. If he develops a fever (whether slight or high) you have another big clue. Ear infections tend to strike after a common cold or sinus infection, so keep that in mind too. You may also notice the following symptoms:
• Your baby pulls, grabs, or tugs at his ears. This may be a sign he's in pain. (However, babies do pull on their ears for all kinds of reasons or for no reason at all, so if your baby seems fine otherwise, he probably doesn't have an ear infection.)
• Diarrhea. The bug that causes the ear infection can also affect the gastrointestinal tract.
• Reduced appetite. Ear infections can cause gastrointestinal upset. They can also make it painful for your baby to swallow and chew. You may notice your baby pull away from the breast or bottle after he takes the first few sips.
• A yellow or whitish fluid draining from the ear. This doesn't happen to most babies, but it's a sure sign of infection. It also signals that a small hole has developed in the eardrum. Don't worry — this will heal on its own once the infection is treated.
• A foul odor emanating from the ear.