The middle ear is a small region of the ear at the rear part of the eardrum. It is susceptible to infection once microorganisms from the nose and throat are ensnared there.
The small-sized tube that connects the ear to the throat or Eustachian tube can become swollen. This can occur during a common cold. This provides the ideal breeding site for microorganisms and cause an infection to develop. The infections are likely to occur among young children since their tubes are smaller and easily blocked.
Indications of middle ear infection
The chief indication of a middle ear infection is ear pain. The discomfort can range from mild or can be significant. Infants and young children become fussy, pull at their ears, cry, have fever or difficulty in sleeping.
There is also thick, yellowish drainage from the ears. This occurs if the infection caused the eardrum to rupture and the fluid drains out. Remember that this is not usually serious and typically causes the pain to settle. The eardrum eventually heals on its own.
Once the fluid accumulation does not become infected, children complain that the ears feel plugged. It can be accompanied by difficulty hearing, but it returns to normal once the fluid is gone. Take note that it can take weeks for the fluid to drain.
Most cases of middle ear infection settle on their own, but antibiotics might be recommended for children younger than 6 months old as well as those at high risk for complications.
A child can be treated at home with over-the-counter pain medications such as acetaminophen, adequate rest and applying a warm compress. The doctor might prescribe eardrops that helps ease the ear pain.
In some cases, minor surgery that involves the placement of tubes in the ears can help if the child has hearing issues or recurrent infections.
There are measures that can help prevent middle ear infections such as:
- Avoid smoking since middle ear infections often develop among children who are exposed to cigarette smoke.
- Promote regular handwashing
- Complete the required immunizations
- Ensure that a child does not sleep while sucking on a bottle