Middle ear infections (also known as otitis media) are common in young children. These infections can involve inflammation, fluid build-up, and mild to severe pain in the middle ear. These symptoms reduce the ear’s ability to pick up sound by reducing the mobility of the eardrum and closing up the ear canal.
Although middle ear infections can be scary, they can usually be treated quickly. If treated properly, the infection should clear and hearing should return to normal over time. Check out the symptoms of middle ear infections below so you know when to seek medical attention for your child.
Young children often have difficulty expressing their discomfort and pain when experiencing a middle ear infection. Common behavior may include:
- Scratching, pulling, or itching at ears
- Irritability/crying at pain
- Slower responses to voices and sounds
Symptoms of middle ear infections that you should check for include:
- Hot and/or red ears
- Constant earache
- Pressure in the ears
- Feelings of dizziness
- Vomiting or general nausea
Middle ear infections are classified as either acute or chronic. The majority of childhood cases of otitis media are acute, meaning they have a rapid onset and last for a short duration. Some cases are chronic and can last for weeks; these cases are often reoccurring and can have long-term effects toward hearing.
Middle ear infections are fought with antibiotics, which destroy the infection and reduce inflammation. Over time, the body self-disposes of any fluids in the ear. The ear is susceptible to more infections until all fluids are drained, so the prescribed amount of antibiotics given should be completed even after the symptoms disappear.
Some ear infections can coincide with the infection of the adenoids and/or tonsils, which can easily be removed with a single outpatient surgery.
It is not advised to leave a middle ear infection untreated. In some cases, the eardrum will burst from the buildup of pressure in the ear, which can rebuild itself within three days. If the eardrum does not burst, the infection may spread dangerously. If you believe your child has a middle ear infection, they should seek medical attention immediately.