It’s not your imagination. Kids can get a lot of ear infections. In fact, 5 out of 6 children will have at least one by their third birthday. Why? Their immune systems are immature, and their little ears don’t drain as well as adults’ ears do.
It’s an infection in the outer ear that usually happens when the ear stays wet long enough to breed germs. But even if your kid hasn’t been swimming, a scratch from something like a cotton swab (or who knows what they stick in there?) can cause trouble. Watch out if your child’s ear gets itchy or hurts when you touch it. The answer is usually medicated drops and keeping ears dry.
The only way to know for sure if your child has one is for a doctor to look inside her ear with a tool called an otoscope, a tiny flashlight with a magnifying lens. A healthy eardrum (shown here) looks sort of clear and pinkish-gray. An infected one looks red and swollen.