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Otitis Media In Children

What is otitis media in children?

Otitis media is an infection in one or both ears. Children are most likely to get ear infections when they are between 3 months and 3 years old. Ear infections are most common during the winter and early spring months. Your child may have an ear infection more than once.

What causes otitis media in children?

Your child may get an ear infection when his eustachian tubes become swollen or blocked. Eustachian tubes drain fluid away from the middle ear. Your child may have a buildup of fluid and pressure in his ear when he has an ear infection. The ear may become infected by germs, which grow easily in the fluid trapped behind the eardrum.


What increases my child's risk for otitis media?

  • Daycare or school

  • Being around people who smoke

  • A brother, sister, or parent with a history of ear infections

  • An ear infection before 6 months of age

  • Health conditions such as cleft palate or Down syndrome

  • Use of pacifiers after 10 months of age

  • Flat position when he drinks a bottle

What are the signs and symptoms of otitis media in children?

  • Fever

  • Ear pain or tugging, pulling, or rubbing of the ear

  • Decreased appetite from painful sucking, swallowing, or chewing

  • Fussiness, restlessness, or difficulty sleeping

  • Yellow fluid or pus coming from the ear

  • Difficulty hearing

  • Dizziness or loss of balance

How is otitis media in children diagnosed?

Your child's caregiver will look inside your child's ears. He may blow a puff of air inside your child's ears. These tests tell caregivers if your child's eardrums are healthy. If your child's eardrum is infected, it will not move as it should. A tympanogram is another test that may be done. During the test, an ear plug is put into each of your child's ears and air pressure is used to see how the eardrum moves. It can help your child's caregiver learn if your child has fluid in his middle ear.

How is otitis media in children treated?

  • Medicines may be given to decrease your child's pain or fever, or to treat an infection caused by bacteria.

  • Ear tubes are often used to keep fluid from collecting in your child's ears. Your child may need these to help prevent frequent ear infections or hearing loss. During this procedure, the caregiver will cut a small hole in your child's eardrum.

What can I do to help prevent otitis media?

  • Wash your and your child's hands often to help prevent the spread of germs. Encourage everyone in your house to wash their hands with soap and water after they use the bathroom, change a diaper, and before they prepare or eat food.
    Handwashing


  • Keep your child away from people who are ill, such as sick playmates. Germs spread easily and quickly in daycare centers.

  • If possible, breastfeed your baby. Your baby may be less likely to get an ear infection if he is breastfed.

  • Do not give your child a bottle while he is lying down. This may cause liquid from his sinuses to leak into his eustachian tube.

  • Keep your child away from people who smoke.

  • Vaccinate your child. Ask your child's caregiver about the shots your child needs.

When should I contact my child's caregiver?

Contact your child's caregiver if:

  • Your child has a fever.

  • Your child is still not eating or drinking 24 hours after he takes his medicine.

  • Your child still has signs and symptoms of an ear infection 48 hours after he takes his medicine.

  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You see blood or pus draining from your child's ear.

  • Your child seems confused or cannot stay awake.

  • Your child has a stiff neck and a fever.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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