Otitis media is infection of the middle ear that involves inflammation and fluid accumulation behind the eardrum.
Any individual can end up with infection of the middle ear but babies between 6-15 months old are generally affected. Most children might experience at least one infection upon reaching 10 years old.
Generally, the indications of otitis media rapidly arise and settle in a few days. The usual indications include:
- Ear pain
- Being sick
- Diminished energy
- Minimal hearing loss
In some instances, a hole might form in the eardrum and there is drainage of pus from the ear. The ear pain due to the fluid accumulation can stretch out the eardrum and settles.
When to seek medical care
Generally, otitis media settles in a few days, thus there is no need to consult a doctor. Nevertheless, a doctor should be seen if the following are present:
- Indications that do not seem to improve after 2 or 3 days
- Significant pain
- Drainage of fluid or pus from the ear
- Presence of an underlying health condition such as congenital heart disease or cystic fibrosis
Management of otitis media
Most cases of ear infections settle in 3-5 days and does not necessitate specific treatment. If needed, ibuprofen or paracetamol is given to lessen the pain and fever.
Antibiotics are not generally prescribed for otitis media, but occasionally used if the symptoms are persistent or severe.
It is not possible to prevent otitis media but there are measures that can be done to lower the risk for developing the condition such as:
- The child should be updated with the regular vaccinations – pneumococcal vaccine and DTap vaccine
- Avoid exposing the child to smoky environments
- Avoid feeding the child while lying flat on his/her back
- If possible, feed the child with breast milk instead of formula
- Avoid contact with other children who are sick can help lower the risk for acquiring the infection that can lead to otitis media.