Otitis media or ear infection is an infection of the middle ear. This is the part that is behind the eardrum. Now, the middle ear is normally filled with air and it consists of small vibrating ear bones which help to transmit the sound waves from the ear drum to the inner ear. Now, the Eustachian tube is a short thin tube and it connects this middle ear to the back of the throat behind the nasal passage. This tube helps to keep the middle ear aerated and it regulates the air pressure. Now, any infection or inflammation of the throat and the nose can block this Eustachian tube creating a vacuum in the middle ear, which then sucks in nasal secretions causing increased pressure and infection in the middle ear. Now, the infecting organisms are mostly bacterial, sometimes it’s viral where it is sourced from the upper respiratory tract infection. The child may present with any of the following symptoms, that is fever, ear pain, irritability and fussiness, tugging of the ear, vomiting, loss of appetite, there can be some temporary hearing loss or even a discharge from the ear.
Here are some of the risk factors for middle ear infection. Children in the age group of 6 months to 2years are in the risk category because they have small sized tubes and poorly developed immune system, day care and preschool attendance exposes these children to more infections like the common cold, bottle propping that is drinking while lying down, a positive cigarette smoke exposure and high air pollution around these kids, siblings with recurrent ear infection and a moderate to severe allergic rhinitis are risk factors.
Now in terms of complications, hearing loss may occur which is mostly temporary which resolves when the infection clears up. Rarely the hearing loss maybe permanent if the middle ear structures are damaged during an infection. Now, speech delay may occur. If the fluid in the middle ear does not clear up for weeks or months after the infection, it can dampen the hearing and interfere in learning to speak. Ear drum rupture can occur that is when the fluid pressure in the middle ear builds up it can rupture the ear drum. It can cause tremendous pain relief, however, repeated rupture causes scarring of the ear drum and can impair the hearing. Mastoiditis that is an infection of the nearby skull bone, in cases of severe otitis media, is a very serious infection and a serious complication of this.
Now, in terms of treatment, you need to know that you have to see your doctor, if your child presents with any of the symptoms of ear infection. Your doctor after examining the ears with an otoscope will either decide to wait and observe for 24-48 hours, if the child is not in distress or in an otherwise healthy child who is older than 2 years. Treatment for a significant infection is an appropriate antibiotic that is given for at least 10 days. Pain relievers can be used such as paracetamol or ibuprofen and analegesic that is pain reliving ear drops. These however, have not been proven to help with the healing process.
Ovum Hospital Team