Ear infection (Otitis Media)


When a child gets a cold, infection can spread from the nose to the ear through a passage called the eustachian tube. This infection occurs in the middle ear space,behind the tympanic membrane, and can cause painful pressure and inflammation.

Ear infections are very common in childhood, and tend to decrease after age six. More than 3/4 of children will have at least one ear infection during the first year of life. Around 1/3  will have repeat ear infections, defined as three or more infections in a six-month period.

Symptoms may include ear tugging, irritability, fever and poor appetite. Ear infections are often associated with a cold and runny nose. Rarely, a severe infection will cause the eardrum to burst,and drainage is seen from the ear.

Diagnosis is made usually by looking at the eardrum through an otoscope. It may be necessary to clean wax from the ear to see the  eardrum.

Treatment is with antibiotics, which will kill the bacterial infection in the middle ear. Most antibiotics need to be given two or three times a day for ten days. Instructions should be followed carefully.

If there is drainage from the ear, an antibiotic  eardrop also may be prescribed. A follow-up visit usually is  required after two weeks.

Pain and fever can be relieved with acetaminophen. A warm towel to the ear can give some relief.

Your doctor may give an anesthetic eardrop if the pain is severe.

Activity may be normal with an ear infection once your child feels  better. It is not necessary to cover the ears.  If a hole (perforation) is seen in the eardrum, care should be taken to keep  the ear dry.



Please call your doctor in the following situations:

Your child seems to be getting worse

Your child develops a stiff neck or redness of the skin  behind the ear           

Fever or pain continues after 48 hours onantibiotics    

Severe diarrhea or a rash develops on antibiotics