What is otitis media?
Otitis media is an ear infection.
Are there different types of otitis media?
Yes. There are two main types. The first type is called acute otitis media (AOM). This means that parts of the ear are infected and swollen. It also means that fluid and mucus are trapped inside the ear. AOM can be painful.
The second type is called otitis media with effusion (fluid), or OME. This means fluid and mucus stay trapped in the ear after the infection is over. OME makes it harder for the ear to fight new infections. This fluid can also affect your child's hearing.
How does otitis media happen?
Otitis media usually happens when viruses and/or bacteria get inside the ear and cause an infection. It often happens as a result of another illness, such as a cold.
It is harder for children to fight illness than it is for adults, so children develop ear infections more often. Some researchers believe that other factors, such as being around cigarette smoke, can contribute to ear infections.
Can otitis media affect my child's hearing?
Yes. An ear infection can cause temporary hearing problems. Temporary speech and language problems can happen, too. If left untreated, these problems can become more serious.
An ear infection affects important parts in the ear that help us hear. Sounds around us are collected by the outer ear. An ear infection affects the whole ear, but especially the middle and inner ear. Hearing is affected because sound cannot get through an ear that is filled with fluid.
How do I know if my child has otitis media?
It is not always easy to know if your child has an ear infection. Sometimes you have to watch carefully. Your child may get an ear infection before he or she has learned how to talk. If your child is not old enough to say, "My ear hurts," you need to look for other signals that there is a problem.
Here are a few signs your child might show you if he or she has otitis media:
- Does she tug or pull at her ears?
- Does he cry more than usual?
- Do you see fluid draining out of her ears?
- Does he have trouble sleeping?
- Can she keep her balance?
- Does he have trouble hearing?
- Does she seem not to respond to quiet sounds?
A child with an ear infection may show you any of these signs. If you see any of them, call a doctor.
What will a doctor do?
Your doctor will examine your child's ear. The doctor can tell you for sure if your child has an ear infection. The doctor may also give your child medicine. Medicines called antibiotics are sometimes given for ear infections. It is important to know how they work. Antibiotics only work against organisms called bacteria, which can cause illness. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses, such as those associated with a cold. In order to be effective, antibiotics must be taken until they are finished. A few days after the medicine starts working, your child may stop pulling on his or her ear and appear to be feeling better. This does not mean the infection is gone. The medicine must still be taken. If not, the bacteria can come back. You need to follow the doctor's directions exactly.
Your doctor may also give your child pain relievers, such as acetaminophen. Medicines such as antihistamines and decongestants do not help in the prevention or treatment of otitis media.
Please contact your local Health Clinic to schedule an audiology appointment