Can The Flu Vaccine Protect Kids Against Ear Infections? Researchers Think So

New research suggests that preventing the flu can prevent ear infections in kids.

For many young children, flu season means an increased risk of ear infections as well. The middle ear has a direct link to the upper respiratory tract, so when little noses are clogged, infection can easily spread to the ear.

While most children under the age of 8 will have at least one ear infection in their childhood, over a quarter of children under 8 experience chronic ear infections.

Researchers now believe that vaccinating against the flu could help prevent some of those ear infections. Researchers looked at more than 270,000 cases of acute ear infections. They found that ear infections increased along with the flu and illnesses cause by two other respiratory viruses.

So, does this mean that preventing the flu could prevent ear infections? Some researchers say yes.

In a report published in 2011, scientists combined data from eight randomized studies of 24,000 children between the ages of 6 months and 7 years. They found that those who received FluMist — a nasal spray variety of flu vaccine — had a significantly lower risk of acute ear infections compared with children who received a placebo. Among children who ultimately got the flu, those who had been vaccinated had a 40 percent reduction in ear infections compared with children who were given a placebo.

FluMist appears to be more effective than the fly shot in these cases, but scientists say that more research in the area is needed.

The bottom line is this: The flu vaccine appears to reduce the likelihood of ear infections in children.