Middle ear infections can be painful and distressing, especially for young children who don’t understand what they’re experiencing. If you or your child are experiencing pain or tenderness of the ear, visit your nearest Urgency Room to get checked out by a board-certified physician.
Your healthcare provider may diagnose you or your child with otitis media, which is an infection of the middle ear. This occurs most often in young children and is uncommon in adults. Kids tend to get middle ear infections after coming down with an upper respiratory infection or a cold. Here’s what you need to know about these infections.
The eustachian tube is a canal in the ear that helps equalize air between your throat and ear. When a child is sick, that tube can become infected.
Children between the ages of 6 and 18 months are at the highest risk for otitis media because their eustachian tubes aren’t fully developed. At this stage, the tube is in a more horizontal position, so fluid is easily trapped. Otitis media is uncommon in adults, since the fully developed eustachian tube lies at an angle, allowing fluid to escape down the back of the throat.
The infection can be acute, coming on over a period of one to two days, and can last weeks or even months. Chronic otitis develops when the infection persists.
People with acute otitis might experience the following:
We treat most people with inner ear infections with antibiotics. Depending on your age, your doctor may also recommend anti-fever medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help reduce inflammation. If the pain is severe, your doctor might prescribe numbing ear drops that can give mild to moderate pain relief.
Once you’re home, continue to manage any symptoms you or your child may be feeling. Be sure to follow the recommendations made by your doctor.
Keep in mind that fluid can be present in the middle ear for several weeks, but that doesn’t mean the infection is still there. It can take a while for the body to absorb the fluid or for it to drain out of the eustachian tube.
Here are a few at-home care steps you should take while monitoring your sick child:
Schedule a follow-up visit with your primary care physician to see if the medications and treatment plan were effective, as well as to help you determine if it’s necessary for your child to see an ear, nose, and throat specialist.
If you notice the following in your child, follow up with your doctor or return to the Urgency Room:
These videos are intended to provide helpful health information to the general public. They are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat health problems, and you should not use these videos in place of a call or visit to a medical professional. Talk with your physician about the proper treatment for your particular condition, and always follow your physician's advice. If you think you need an ambulance or are experiencing a medical emergency, please dial 911 immediately.