Middle Ear Infection
Middle ear infections are caused by bacteria and viruses. Swelling from an upper respiratory infection or allergy can block the Eustachian tubes, which would prevent air from reaching the middle ear. A vacuum and suction then pulls fluid and germs from the nose and throat into the middle ear. Since the tubes are swollen, the fluid cannot drain. This provides a medium for the growth of bacteria or virus, which leads to a middle ear infection.
The otoscope can blow a tiny puff of air against the eardrum to see if it vibrates normally. When there is fluid present in the middle ear, the eardrum does not vibrate normally.
The Eustachian tube is the canal that connects your middle ear to your throat. When the Eustachian tube is open as it is normally, it prevents fluid and air pressure from building up inside the ear. Infections like colds, the flu, or allergic reactions can cause the Eustachian tube to become swollen and blocked.
Middle Ear Infection Symptoms
Symptoms of a middle ear infections tend to occur 2 to 7 days after the start of a cold or other respiratory infection. Middle ear infection symptoms may include:
- Ear pain (mild to severe)
- Drainage from the ear that is thick and yellow or bloody
- Loss of appetite, vomiting, and grumpy behavior
- Trouble sleeping
Middle Ear Infection Treatment
Treatment for middle ear infections typically focuses on relieving pain. Over-the-counter pain and fever medications such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen are used. Of note, you should never give aspirin to children. A doctor may prescribe antibiotics for a middle ear infection, but ear infections tend to get better without them. If children have repeat ear infections, a doctor may prescribe long-term oral antibiotic treatment. Inserting ear tubes or removing the adenoids or tonsils may also be a solution for children who have repeat middle ear infections.