There are a number of reasons why children get middle ear infections. They often stem from a prior infection of the respiratory tract that spreads to the ears. When the tube that connects the middle ear to the pharynx (eustachian tube) is blocked, fluid will collect behind the eardrum. Bacteria will often grow in the fluid, causing pain and infection.
Genetics also plays a role in increasing your child’s risk of AOM.
There are a variety of symptoms associated with middle ear infections. Some of the most common are:
Your doctor will make sure they have your child’s medical history and will do a physical examination. During the exam, your doctor will look at the outer ear and eardrum using a lighted instrument called an otoscope to check for redness, swelling, pus, and fluid.
Your doctor might also conduct a test called tympanometry to determine whether the middle ear is working properly. For this test, a device is put inside your ear canal, changing the pressure and making the eardrum vibrate. The test measures changes in vibration and records them on a graph. Your doctor will interpret the results.
There are a number of ways to treat middle ear infections. Your doctor will base treatment on your child’s age, health, and medical history. Doctors will also consider the following:
Depending on the severity of the infection, your doctor may tell you that the best option is to treat the pain and wait to see if symptoms go away. Ibuprofen or another fever and pain reducer is a common treatment.
Symptoms lasting more than three days usually mean your doctor will recommend antibiotics. However, antibiotics won’t cure an infection if its caused by a virus.
There are ways to lower your child’s risk of getting ear infections: