Important facts you need to know about otitis media – middle ear infection

While most ear infections are common to adults and children alike, otits media or middle ear infection has been found prevalent in almost 80% of children below the age of 3 years. So what exactly is otitis media and why does it infect young children rather than adults? Read on to find out more about the symptoms, causes and cure for otitis media, commonly known as middle ear infection.


1 What is Otitis Media?

The area behind the eardrum is known as the middle ear. When this area gets inflamed as a result of a virus or bacteria, the condition is called otitis media. It is usually of two types- Acuteotitis media and Otitis media with effusion.

Middle ear infections are commonly prevalent during winter and the onset of spring. While both types of infection are marked with symptoms of fever, pain and discomfort in the ear, otitis media with effusion will continue to cause problems of fluid and mucous in the ear.

What is Otitis Media?

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2 How do you recognize an ear infection in your child?

Otitis media ranges from mild infections which disappear within a few days to others which may remain longer. This may be cause of a stubborn infection when the infection is a stubborn one resulting in persisting pain and a sense of fullness in the ear. If your child has otitis media, go to a pediatrician immediately.


Although it is easier for children above 3 to tell you about a worrisome ear infection, for toddlers and babies it can be difficult. Some tell tale signs if your toddler has an ear infection are mentioned below.

How do you recognize an ear infection in your child?

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  • Irritability, crying
  • Ear pulling and tugging
  • Nasal congestion
  • Puking and diarrhea
  • Mucous in the ear
  • Fever and disorientation
  • Inability to sleep

3 Otitis media in older children and adults

Otitis media infections if left untreated can also spread to the Eustachian tube. This is the passage connecting the pharynx to the middle ear. In adults, otitis media can impair hearing for a few days, causing pain, headaches and fever.

Middle ear infections run their course once treatment has begun. A common middle ear infection clears up within 3 days. However if the symtoms are more pronounced or persist, then a visit to a GP will be necessary. Both young and older children with a history of congenital heart disease should be taken to a doctor immediately.

Otitis media in older children and adults

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4 What are the causes of otitis media and middle ear infections?

There are several reasons for developing a middle ear infection. While impurities in the ear are the most common of causes, others could be due to contaminated water entering the ears, infected ear wax and mucous formed by heavy colds and cough.


The main reason why otitis media affects youngsters is because the Eustachian tube of children is comparatively smaller than that of an adult. This makes it easy for bacteria formation. The role of the Eustachian tube is to allow free passage of fresh air. This prevents infections and clears impurities in the ear.

What are the causes of otitis media and middle ear infections?

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5 How does a doctor diagnose otitis media in children?

The physical diagnosis of otitis media is usually done with the help of an instrument called an otoscope. This helps in the detection of pus, inflammation, redness,mucous and swelling. To detect impairment or loss of hearing, the doctor will also carry out a tympanometry test. This is done by inserting a device into the ear canal causing a change in pressure and the ear to vibrate. Test variations are recorded by a graph which is interpreted by the doctor to determine the results.

How does a doctor diagnose otitis media in children?

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6 How is otitis media treated?

As in all infections, otitis media too is treated with antibiotics. However if the condition is caused by a virus, then a different approach will be required as antibiotics don’t usually help in the case of a virus. But, this doesn’t mean nomedication will be provided. There is a lot medication can do to provide relief from pain and swelling. To keep the ear free from earwax build up and impurities, an earwax softener can also be used.

How is otitis media treated?

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7 How to prevent middle ear infection in babies and older children

You can take the following steps in order to prevent the occurrence of middle ear infections among your kids:

How to prevent middle ear infection in babies and older children

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  • Disinfect your child’s bath water
  • Check your child’s ears every day for dirt and impurities
  • Use a hand wash before handling your child
  • Avoid smoke and allergen prone conditions
  • Disinfect your baby’s pacifier and feeding bottles by boiling daily
  • Keep your child’s toothbrush in a germ free area
  • Prevent water from enterig your baby’s ears while bathing.
  • Immunization of your children should be up to date

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