This phone app can help you figure out if your kid has an ear infection 😳

It's not available publicly yet, but it could be a game-changer.

This phone app can help you figure out if your kid has an ear infection 😳
Photos by Dennis Wise / University of Washington

Nearly every parent knows what an ear infection false alarm feels like. You see your child acting a bit fussy and tugging on their ear, so you head to the pediatrician's office… and sometimes, you're simply told there's no sign of infection and sent home.

But what if there was a way to weed out those false alarms and save the same-day appointments for the real deal? According to researchers from the University of Washington, there just might be—and the solution may (quite literally) be in the palm of your hand.

Researchers from the UW School of Medicine have come up with software that may tell parents whether or not a child's ear shows signs of infection. The technology can be used at home via a smartphone app. It sounds too good to be true, but the science is telling us otherwise.


Ear infections occur when fluid builds up behind the eardrum and becomes infected, according to the research team. The software works by detecting the presence of any fluid (which, infected or not, can cause pain or hearing difficulties). If your child has fluid in their ear, the software will encourage you to visit your child's doctor—but if there doesn't seem to be any fluid, you may be able to avoid an unnecessary trip.

Here's how it works: Parents use a simple piece of paper to create a funnel of sorts, which is then taped to a smartphone's speaker. You simply hold the funnel up to your child's ear and allow it to play a tone—the app can tell you whether there's any fluid in the ear based on how the sound is reflected back through the funnel.

"It's like tapping a wine glass," says researcher Justin Chan. "Depending on how much liquid is in it, you get different sounds. Using machine learning on these sounds, we can detect the presence of liquid."

The technology's effectiveness seems pretty promising: Researchers created the algorithm based on the study of 53 children, half of whom were undergoing surgery to relieve chronic bouts of ear fluid. The other half of the children were undergoing surgeries unrelated to their ears.

Once they came up with the algorithm, they tested it on 15 children aged 9 to 18 months old and were able to correctly identify fluid in the ears in most of these children. The team also observed a group of parents and doctors using this method, and found that lay parents had similar success in detecting fluid as compared to the group of doctors.

So what does this mean for everyday parents? Well, this smartphone app could be a game-changer. None of us enjoy those unnecessary last-minute trips to the pediatrician's office, after all. With that being said, this research, which was published in Translational Medicine, is new. It may be a while before medical professionals are truly on board with this line of at-home monitoring, but it just may be the first step towards a really convenient technology parents everywhere can employ.

In the meantime, we'd suggest checking in with your child's doctor if you see signs of an ear infection (according to the Mayo Clinic, you should definitely contact the pediatrician if your child is under 6 months old, if symptoms last more than a day, or if you see any discharge from your child's ear). Unnecessary visits are a pain, but you're better off safe than sorry.

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Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

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1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

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4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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