Reporter: Shannon Samson
Until recently, Kate Hoying wouldn't get on a swing because the motion hurt her ears.
Mom Molly Hoying says, "Couldn't take her to the park and swing her, she wouldn't climb up on a slide, she couldn't swim." Like 15 million children across the country, Kate gets ear infections. Not just once in a while, but several times a year.
In a healthy child, the Eustachian tube allows fluid to drain out of the middle ear to the throat. But in an ear infection, bacteria collects and prevents the fluid from draining. Antibiotics and ear tubes can treat the infection.
But Dr. Lauren Bakaletz at Columbus Children's Research Institute wants to prevent them before they develop with a vaccine. "Vaccine development holds the greatest promise for being able to do something proactively to prevent ear infections rather than to treat them or manage them medically or surgically." Bakaletz, who is also with the Ohio State University, says her vaccine would help the body defend itself against bacteria that take advantage of a child's cold. So when the bacteria start collecting, the body starts attacking. "So when the children get colds the bacteria should be either at a low enough level or gone so that they can't get access to the middle ears."
Bakaletz is working with the National Institutes of Health and may start human testing next year. So someday, kids like Kate can make fewer trips to the doctor and more trips to the playground.
Several factors put children at higher risk for ear infections, exposure to cigarette smoke, attending day care, allergies, using a pacifier or a bottle in bed, being premature and being a boy.