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Acute Otitis Media: The Silent Ear Infection That Could Stir Up a Storm

December 3, 2020

If you have an ever-bawling baby, an ear-tugging toddler or an older child with a constant earache, you may be tempted to blow it off as just another infection. If you are, don’t be. Discomfort like this may be deeper rooted than you think, and if your child is old enough to express the pain in the ear, it’s a good idea to have acute otitis media ruled out as a cause for discomfort. If you aren’t familiar with the condition, this article should have you acquainted with its causes, symptoms and treatments.  

Understanding Acute Otitis Media

Acute otitis media is a middle ear infection that occurs when the hollow space behind the eardrum becomes inflamed. It can cause severe pain, and maybe characterised by irritability and fussiness in babies, ear-clutching in toddlers and constant earaches in older children.

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Causes of Acute Otitis Media

In babies and toddlers, the Eustachian tube – the tube that connects the middle of the ear to the back of the throat – is shorter and flatter than in older children. Consequently, there is a higher chance of fluids getting trapped and leading to infections. Risk factors for acute otitis media include:

  • A sinus infection
  • Allergies
  • Swollen adenoids
  • A cold
  • Smoke and pollutants
  • Nursing in a horizontal position

Symptoms of Acute Otitis Media

In babies and toddlers, the following symptoms might occur independently, or in conjunction:

  • Crying
  • Fussiness
  • Restlessness
  • Ear pulling
  • Headache
  • Neck pain
  • Sense of fullness inside the ear
  • Fever
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Temporary loss of hearing

Treatment of Acute Otitis Media

Acute otitis media usually recedes on its own, without any treatment or intervention, although antibiotics may be administered in more serious cases. Some home remedies are also effective.

Must Read: Recognising Hearing Anomalies in Babies

Home Remedies

A warm, damp cloth can work wonders in providing pain relief to your child. Hold one over your child’s infected ear to offer comfort.

Medication

Paediatrician-approved ear drops and pain relief syrups are some medicated options you could resort to using at home. If your child’s symptoms don’t improve, your paediatrician may also prescribe antibiotics.

Surgery

Surgery is always a last resort, but it may be considered if the medication doesn’t elicit the desired treatment outcome. Adenoid removal may be recommended if your child’s adenoids are swollen or infected, or if your child has a history of multiple infections. Another surgical route involves the insertion of fine tubes into your child’s ears to allow for the drainage of fluid.

In general, acute otitis media isn’t a cause for concern. It usually improves without any treatment but does have a tendency to recur. In some cases, the condition can cause temporary hearing loss, inflamed tonsils and adenoids, a ruptured eardrum and speech setbacks. More rarely, it can give rise to meningitis.

To Know More: About A Spotlight on Common Ear, Nose and Throat Problems in Toddlers

There are ways you can minimise your child’s risk of contracting acute otitis media – avoiding cigarette smoke, washing hands regularly, getting regular vaccinations, banishing the pacifier and breastfeeding as long as possible are some methods. If your child exhibits signs of an ear infection, it’s wise to visit a paediatrician. By taking action early, you can give your child the best of health – and hearing.

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