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Otitis Media

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Otitis media is the most common ear infection. It is the infection of middle ear.

Signs and Symptoms

Ear infections can be hard to detect, especially if your child is too young to say, “My ear hurts.” Knowing what to look for can help. Children with ear infections may:

  • Tug or pull at their ears
  • Cry more than usual
  • Have trouble sleeping
  • Fail to respond to sounds
  • Be unusually irritable
  • Develop a fever
  • Develop fluid that drains from the ears
  • Have headaches

Do’s and Don’ts

  • Teach children to cover their mouths with a disposable tissue when they cough and blow their noses with disposable tissues so that the germs are not transmitted to others.
  • Do not allow children to share toys that they put in their mouths.
  • Make sure all children and adults use good hand washing practices.
  • Do not use instruments or cotton-tipped applicators to cean ears.
  • Breast-feed your baby during the first six to 12 months of life. Antibodies in breast milk reduce the rate of ear infections.


Treatment of otitis media

Ear infections can be treated various ways. What's best for your child depends on many factors, including your child's age, medical history and the type of ear infection.

A wait-and-see approach: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) recommend a wait-and-see approach for the first 72 hours for children who:

  • Are older than age 6 months
  • Are otherwise healthy
  • Have mild signs and symptoms or an uncertain diagnosis

If your child is uncomfortable, the doctor may recommend an over-the-counter pain reliever such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. If your child doesn't have drainage from the ear or ear tubes, prescription eardrops containing a local anesthetic may be an option, too. The drops won't cure the infection, but they may relieve pain.

Antibiotic therapy:
If your child is younger than age 6 months or has two or more ear infections within 30 days or chronic otitis media with effusion, the doctor may recommend an antibiotic.

Drainage tubes:
If fluid in your child's ear is affecting his or her hearing or recurrent ear infections don't respond to antibiotics, your child's doctor may suggest surgery. The most common surgery for ear infections is a myringotomy. During this procedure, which requires general anesthesia, a surgeon inserts a small drainage tube through your child's eardrum. This helps drain the fluid and equalize the pressure between the middle ear and outer ear.

Your child's hearing should improve immediately. As your child grows, the tubes will come out on their own and the drainage holes will heal — often within a year. In the meantime, your child may need to wear special ear plugs in the pool and bathtub to keep water out of his or her ears.

Some children continue to have ear infections after surgery. Sometimes this leads to another set of tubes. If the ear infections continue after age 4, the surgeon may recommend removing your child's adenoids.

Written by: Healthplus24 team
Date last updated: November 11, 2011

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