Prevention & Risk Treatment
What causes otitis media?
Middle ear infections are usually a result of a malfunction of the eustachian tube, a canal that links the middle ear with the throat area. The eustachian tube helps to equalize the pressure between the outer ear and the middle ear. When this tube is not working properly, it prevents normal drainage of fluid from the middle ear, causing a build up of fluid behind the eardrum. When this fluid cannot drain, it allows for the growth of bacteria and viruses in the ear that can lead to acute otitis media. The following are some of the reasons that the eustachian tube may not work properly:
A cold or allergy which can lead to swelling and congestion of the lining of the nose, throat, and eustachian tube (this swelling prevents the normal flow of fluids)
A malformation of the eustachian tube
What are the different types of otitis media?
Different types of otitis media include the following:
- Acute otitis media (AOM). The middle ear infection occurs abruptly causing swelling and redness. Fluid and mucus become trapped inside the ear, causing the child to have a fever, ear pain, and hearing loss.
- Otitis media with effusion (OME)Fluid (effusion) and mucus continue to accumulate in the middle ear after an initial infection subsides. The child may experience a feeling of fullness in the ear and hearing loss.
- Chronic otitis media with effusion (COME). Fluid remains in the middle ear for a prolonged period or returns again and again, even though there is no infection. May result in difficulty fighting new infection and hearing loss.
What are the symptoms of otitis media?
The following are the most common symptoms of otitis media. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
- Unusual irritability
- Difficulty sleeping or staying asleep
- Tugging or pulling at one or both ears
- Fluid draining from ear(s)
- Loss of balance
- Hearing difficulties
- Ear pain
The symptoms of otitis media may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.