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- Middle ear infection definition and facts
- What is middle ear infection or inflammation?
- Signs and symptoms of acute middle ear infection in infants, toddlers, and children?
- How common is acute middle ear infection or inflammation?
- Are ear infections contagious?
- Why do infants and young children tend to have ear infections?
- What are the risk factors for acute and middle ear infection?
- How do you get a middle ear infection?
- How does the Eustachian tube change with age?
- How is acute middle ear infection diagnosed?
- How is acute middle ear infection or inflammation treated?
- Are there any home remedies for acute middle ear infection?
- What causes chronic middle ear infection or inflammation?
- What happens to the eardrum in chronic middle ear infection or inflammation?
- What happens to the eardrum if a hole develops in the eardrum?
- How is chronic middle ear infection or inflammation treated?
- What are the goals of chronic otitis media surgery?
- What is serious middle ear infection or inflammation?
- Which specialties of doctors treat middle ear infections?
- What limitations are there on a child with middle ear infection or inflammation?
- Can otitis media (middle ear infection or inflammation) be prevented?
Quick GuideEar Infection Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment
Signs and symptoms of acute middle ear infection in infants, toddlers, and children
Signs and symptoms of middle ear infections in babies, toddlers, and children may include:
- Young non-verbal children may be irritable and pull or tug at their ear(s).
- Young children with middle ear infections may be irritable, fussy, or have problems feeding or sleeping.
- Older children may complain about pain and fullness in the ear (earache).
- A child of any age may have a fever.
- The buildup of pus within the middle ear causes pain and dampens the vibrations of the eardrum (so there is usually temporary hearing loss during the infection).
- Severe ear infections may cause the eardrum to rupture. The pus then drains from the middle ear into the ear canal.
- The hole in the eardrum from the rupture usually heals without medical treatment.
Signs and symptoms of middle ear infections in adults
- Ear pain
- Difficulty hearing
- Ear(s) may feel plugged up
- Ringing in ears
- Nausea and/or vomiting.
How common is acute middle ear infection or inflammation?
This type of infection is an extremely common diagnosis. In the U.S. it is estimated that 75% of all children experience at least one middle ear infection before the age of three.
Are ear infections contagious?
Ear infections are not contagious. However, many children develop infections following a cold or other viral infection, and those infections are contagious.
Why do infants and young children tend to have ear infections?
The Eustachian tube, a canal that runs from the middle ear to the back of the nose and throat, is shorter and more horizontal in infants and young children than in older children and adults. This allows easier entry into the middle ear for the microorganisms that cause infection and lead to otitis media. Young children also have more immature immune systems. The result is that infants and young children are at greater risk of acquiring ear infections than adults.
What are the risk factors for acute and middle ear infection?
- Bottlefeeding: The position of the breastfeeding child is better than that of the bottlefeeding position in terms of the function of the Eustachian tube that leads into the middle ear. If an infant needs to be bottlfed, it's better to hold the the baby rather than allowing them to lie down with the bottle. Ideally, they should not take the bottle to bed. (In addition to increasing the chance for acute infection, falling asleep with milk in the mouth enhances the risk of tooth decay.)
- Upper respiratory tract infection: Children often develop upper respiratory infections prior to developing this type of infection. Exposure to groups of children (as in child care centers) results in more frequent colds, and therefore more earaches.
- Exposure to air with irritants, such as tobacco smoke
- Birth defects: Children with cleft palate or Down syndrome are more prone to ear infections.
- Eustachian tube problems: Any problems with the Eustachian tubes (for example, blockage, malformation, inflammation) will increase the risk of infection. If the individual has allergies he or she may have swelling and blockage of one or both Eustachian tubes.
- Immunosuppressed: Individuals with suppressed immunosuppression are at increased risk for ear infections.
- Ear infections later in childhood: Children who have episodes of acute infections before six months of age tend to have more later in childhood.