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A healthy baby isn't so tough to care for but a sick baby is a nightmare. It's time to get Mom involved and ask for help.

As the primary caregiver, it is our responsibility to take care of our child when they are sick so that mom is available to work. Don't be scared to ask mom for help. She will be more than happy to comfort the child and may even stay home to help you out. It doesn't mean you failed. A sick child is very tough to care for and two caregivers can only make their recovery that much faster.

Ear infections occur when fluid gets trapped in the middle ear (an air-filled space located behind the eardrum) and becomes infected by bacteria or a virus. This is most likely to happen when the eustachian tube (a narrow passageway that connects the throat to the middle ear) becomes blocked. Typically, this blockage is caused by swelling or congestion from a cold, which is why an ear infection often develops on the heels of a cold. Allergies can also cause inflammation that obstructs the eustachian tubes. Anatomy is a contributing factor as well. A child's eustachian tubes are shorter, less angled, and floppier than an adult's, which means that both fluid and germs are more likely to get trapped in the middle ear. In addition, a child's immune system is still developing, so she has a tougher time than an adult in fighting off viruses and bacteria.

Because infants and toddlers don't yet have the language skills to let you know how they're feeling, detecting an ear infection is especially hard. "Older kids will come to you and say, 'My ear hurts",an infant obviously isn't going to be able to do that." So what can parents be on alert for?  In general, a fever above 102 degrees F. is one of the hallmarks of an ear infection in a nonverbal child. Ear tugging is not a reliable sign, but ear infections are painful, so your child's tears or increased irritability may be a symptom. Also, if your baby becomes more upset when she's lying down, an ear infection may be to blame, because that position puts pressure on the eustachian tubes. Other indicators of an ear infection can include difficulty sleeping, diminished appetite, vomiting, or diarrhea. And you may notice that your child doesn't hear well; she may not respond to sounds around her as she normally would, for example. Rest assured -- her hearing will come back once the infection is gone and her ear is free of fluid. A definite red flag: fluid or pus draining from your child's ear. This can signal a perforated eardrum, a condition that can develop if the fluid in the middle ear puts so much pressure on the eardrum that it bursts. Although a burst eardrum may sound scary and can be very painful for your child, the hole is not serious and will usually heal by itself.

Though antibiotics are very often used to treat ear infections, the latest thinking is that doctors needn't immediately whip out their prescription pads. In some cases, a watch-and-wait approach may be appropriate. "The science is now showing us that 80 percent of the time, kids will get better without an antibiotic," says Ellen M. Friedman, MD, author of My Ear Hurts! A Complete Guide to Understanding and Treating Your Child's Ear Infections (Fireside). That's because one-third of ear infections are caused by viruses, which don't respond to antibiotics. And some of the infections caused by bacteria will improve on their own. Moreover, repeated doses of antibiotics that may be unwarranted can spur the development of resistant bacteria, which is another big problem, Dr. Friedman says. Whether your child takes antibiotics is based on several factors, including his age and the severity of his symptoms. It's common to prescribe antibiotics for babies and toddlers who have an ear infection. "With children younger than 2, almost everyone agrees on giving antibiotics," Dr. April says. "Kids that age aren't verbal enough to tell you, 'My ear really hurts. It's getting worse.' Plus, they're more prone to complications from ear infections, such as hearing loss or other rarer problems." for kids older than 2, watchful waiting is an option if the symptoms are mild and if the doctor is uncertain that the child has an ear infection. So if your preschooler is otherwise healthy, doesn't have a high fever, and isn't extremely irritable, and if you're a family who will definitely follow up, your doctor may decide to wait 48 to 72 hours to see if the problem will get better on its own, Dr. Friedman explains. Dr. Casselbrant adds, "Your child doesn't have to be perfectly back to normal within two to three days, but his symptoms should have improved." If they haven't, your doctor will ask you to come back or will simply give you an antibiotic prescription.

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