Ear Infections

What is otitis media?
It is a disease caused by germs in the middle ear, which is behind the eardrum.
How does it happen?
There is a tube between the middle ear and the back of the throat called the Eustachian (you-STAY-shun) tube.  During a cold, germs can spread from the back of the throat, up the tube and into the middle ear.  The germs can multiply in the middle ear and cause an infection behind the eardrum.
Is it caused by cold air?
No, it is not caused by cold air or by not wearing a hat.  It is always caused by germs.
What are the signs and symptoms?
They include ear pain, ear rubbing or pulling, crying, pus coming out of the ear, fever, balance problems, or hearing loss.  If it is not treated promptly and correctly, the infection could cause hearing loss and a more serious infection.
What is the treatment?
·         Your child’s physician will prescribe and antibiotic.  Be sure to complete the course of treatment.  If you give less or skip too many doses, the earache may come back quickly.  You should start the medicine on the same day it is prescribed (if you can’t get to a drug store or can’t buy it. Tell your physician).
·         You can help relieve the pain by giving acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) and by using heat, such as a warm wash cloth or heating pad held up to the ear.  Sometimes ear drops will be recommended.  These drops may help with the pain but only the antibiotic will get rid of the infection.
When should I see my child’s pediatrician again?
·         If your child is not better after 2 days of treatment or if his symptoms get worse, he should be seen again or your pediatrician should be contacted for advice.
·         In younger children the ears checked again in about one month.  Your pediatrician needs to make sure the ears are normal and that there is no fluid behind the ear drum.
Are there any special tests which might be needed?
Tests which are commonly done include hearing tests and tympanometry.  Tympanometry measures the pressure behind the ear drum and can help your child’s physician decide if the ear examination is normal or abnormal.  Neither test is painful and tympanomerty can be easily done in most offices.
Can all children have their hearing tested?
Yes.  Children have a hearing screeing done at birth and young children may require a special type of testing called Auditory Brainstem Response testing. All children can receive otoacoustic emission screening and children over 1 year of age can have visual reinforced audiometry (VRA) testing. Older children can have routine sound booth testing or routine screening in your pediatrician’s office