Ear Infection (cont.)

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What are the symptoms of acute middle ear infection?

Young children with otitis media may be irritable, fussy, or have problems feeding or sleeping. Older children may complain about pain and fullness in the ear (earache). Fever may be present in a child of any age. These symptoms are often associated with signs of upper respiratory infection such as a runny or stuffy nose, or a cough.

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 with medical treatment.

How common is acute middle ear infection or inflammation?

Otitis media is an extremely common diagnosis. In the U.S. it is estimated that 75% of all children experience at least one episode before the age of three.

Are ear infections contagious?

Ear infections are not contagious; however, many children develop ear infections following a cold or other viral infection, and those infections are contagious.

Why do 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 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. The result is that children are at greater risk of acquiring ear infections than adults.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/11/2014

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