Kids can suffer from middle ear infection, also called Otitis media. It is a common problem among kids under the age of 3 when a virus or bacteria causes inflammation in the area behind the eardrum. They occur during winter and early spring and go away without any medication. But one should seek medical advice ,should pain linger or there is fever.
There are two kinds of middle ear infection –
1. Acute otitis – This condition appears rapidly accompanied by swelling and redness in the ear, fever, ear pain and temporary loss of hearing due to trapped fluid and mucus in the ear.
2. Otitis media with Effusion – Often times, after a previous infection has healed, some mucus and fluid continues to build up in the middle ear making it feel full thereby affecting the ability to hear clearly.
This infection happens due to a number of reasons. A prior infection of the respiratory tract can spread the infection to the ear. When the connecting tube of the middle ear to the pharynx gets blocked, fluid collects behind the eardrum causing bacteria to grow, resulting in pain and infection. The common symptoms are ear-ache, irritability, difficulty in sleeping, tugging or pulling at ears, fever, yellow discharge from the ears, loss of balance, problems of hearing, nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea, decreased appetite and congestion.
Doctors will review the medical history and conduct a physical examination to check for signs of redness, inflammation, any fluid and pus discharge. Doctors may also run a test of tympanometry to check if the middle ear is operating properly. Treatment of this infection is based on age, health and medical history while considering the severity of the infection, tolerance levels towards antibiotics and preferences. Antibiotics are required if symptoms last more than 3 days but if a virus is causing the infection then antibiotics won’t be effective.
Complications are rare but can occur and some of those are : infections spreading to the ear bone, to the fluid around the brain and spinal cord, permanent hearing loss or ruptured eardrums.
Prevention is key in the case of middle ear infections in children and this is achieved by washing hands frequently, keeping foreign and unclean items out of the kid’s reach and mouth, avoiding smokers and smoky areas, up-to-date vaccinations and weaning off pacifiers by the time the toddler turns one.