by Ronnenberg A

A risk factor is something that raises the chances of getting a health problem. A person can get middle ear infections with or without the ones listed below. The chances of getting infections are greater in people who have many.

Middle ear infections are more common in children under 5 years of age, but they can also happen in older children and adults. Other things that may raise the risk are:

Ear infections may run in families. A child may have a higher risk if other people in their family have had them.

Ear infections may happen after a cold or other virus leads to an upper respiratory infection.

Tobacco smoke can bother the airways. This can raise the risk of infection in people who smoke and those who are exposed to tobacco smoke.

Ear infections are often linked to viruses like colds. Viruses spread quickly in places where people gather. This is why children who go to daycare preschool have a higher risk.

Breast milk contains antibodies that can help fight infection. Breastfeeding for less than 6 months may raise the risk of infection.

Pacifier use raises the risk of ear infections. But it also lowers the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, so it is better to give babies a pacifier than to take it away to lower the risk of ear infections.

The risk of ear infections may be higher for people with health issues like:

  • Problems with the immune system, such as AIDS
  • Large adenoids
  • Laryngopharyngeal reflux
  • Health issues at birth that make it hard for the ear to drain, such as cleft palate


Acute otitis media (AOM) in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed May 17, 2022.

Ear infections in children. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders website. Available at: Accessed May 17, 2022.

Middle ear infections. Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: Accessed May 17, 2022.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kuenn, MD
  • Review Date: 11/2021
  • Update Date: 05/18/2022