Otitis Media or Middle Ear Infections
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, but may occur at any age. 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.
Middle Ear Infections in Kids and Adults
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 less common 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:
- Pain near the ear
- Tenderness around the ear
- Rash on the stomach
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. The numbing drops were taken off the marked by the FDA a few years ago.
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:
- Finish all of the antibiotics in the prescription, even if your child is feeling better
- Keep your child well hydrated
- Monitor their temperature
- Make sure they get plenty of rest
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:
- Pain or fever not getting better after 2-3 days of antibiotics
- Looking ill
- Persistent vomiting
- Trouble taking in fluids or decreased urination.