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Ear Infections in Children

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Ear infections are one of the most common childhood illnesses. Most children will have at least one ear infection before they turn 3 years.

There are two main types of ear infections in children:

  • Outer ear infections (otitis externa)
  • Middle ear infections (acute otitis media (AOM))


Causes of ear infection

When a child has cold, throat infection or allergy, the tube that drains fluid out of the middle ear (Eustachian tube) gets blocked, resulting in collection of fluid in the middle ear. When this fluid becomes infected, it causes pain and swelling in the ear resulting in acute otitis media (AOM). It is the most common bacterial illness in children for which antibacterial agents are prescribed in USA.1


Symptoms of ear infection

Symptoms of an ear infection include:

  • Ear pain and irritability
  • Fever
  • Ear drainage
  • Difficulty in hearing


Treatment of ear infections

Ear infections are treated with antibiotics. Amoxicillin is the first choice antibiotic for ear infections.

However, many episodes of AOM will resolve on their own without antimicrobial therapy, and therefore, one of the recommendations for initial treatment of AOM in specified situations was watchful waiting without antibacterial therapy.2

Some children with persistent infections can benefit from tympmanocentesis, which involves puncturing the ear drum with a needle and draining the fluid and pus behind the ear drum. 

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Written by: Healthplus24 team
Date last updated: July 13, 2011

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