What is acute otitis media?
Acute otitis media mostly affects the middle part of either ear in children. This part of the ears can become swollen due to an infection. It usually comes with pain. Another way of describing this is the inflammation of the middle ear. The middle ear is found just behind your eardrum.
These behaviors are seen in children whose middle ears have been infected and inflamed.
- Fussy fits characterized by serious crying especially in infants
- Toddlers will be seen clutching the affected ear while wriggling in pain.
- Older children will be heard complaining of pain in the affected ear.
Symptoms of acute otitis media
Children including infants may display one or more of these:
- Incessant crying.
- Irritable feeling.
- Loss of sleep.
- Complaints about the affected ear pulling down.
- The affected ear will experience pain.
- Serious pain in the head.
- Pain in the neck region.
- Complaining that the ears feel full.
- Pus will begin to drip from the ear affected.
- Raised body temperature.
- Nausea characterized by vomiting in most instances.
- Frequent watery stooling.
- Poor balance while walking.
- Temporary loss of hearing.
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Causes of acute otitis media
There is a tube in the two ears called the eustachian tube. This tube connects the back of the throat to the middle ear. This tube isn’t long in young children. It is also more horizontal in them than in older kids and adults. Younger kids thus are more susceptible to suffer from acute otitis media. A child will suffer from acute otitis media when his eustachian tube gets blocked. When it gets blocked, it begins to trap fluid within it. This will further cause this part to become swollen and infected.
Smoking, flu, sinusitis, allergies, adenoids enlargement, and drinking in a sleeping position by infants can make the eustachian tube to become swollen.
Risk factors for acute otitis media
- The use of pacifiers
- Daycare attendance.
- Bottle feeding over breastfeeding in infants.
- Laying down and drinking at the same time in infants.
- Long exposure to tobacco smoke
- Serious air pollution.
- 6 to 36 months old children.
- Mountain climbing.
- Changing from a hot to a cold climate.
- Cold climatic conditions.
- Genetic conditions
- A recent development of sinusitis, cold or flu.
Diagnosing acute otitis media
Otoscope: This is an instrument employed to check the inner part of the ears. Once in the ears, it can detect redness in the ears, swelling, perforated eardrum, the presence of air bubbles, and the presence of pus or blood.
Tympanometry: This involves measuring the pressure caused by air in the child’s ears. Doing this allows the doctor to know if the eardrum has been ruptured.
Reflectometry: This is done to determine the presence of fluid in the ears by listening to sound close to the child’s ear. An instrument is used to make a short sound close to the ear of the child. A reflection of the sound will be listened to by the doctor.
A hearing test can also be performed on the child’s ears to find out if there is a hearing loss.
Treatment for acute otitis media
More than fifty percent of acute otitis media infections naturally go away without the use of antibiotics.
Because of the adverse effects that antibiotics can elicit in your child, it is usually recommended that you give them pain-relieving medications and home treatments before antibiotics are considered.
Home treatment: This will be suggested strictly to relieve your child’s pains until the infection goes away. Do these:
- Place a warm but moist cloth on the ear infected
- Administer ear drops gotten from a drug store in the infected ear. This will cause some relief of the pain.
- Give the child OTC drugs like ibuprofen and acetaminophen to relieve his pain.
Medication: If you visit a doctor, he will still recommend drugs to relieve your child’s pain. And if the symptoms refuse to go away after some days of home treatment, he will give you some antibiotics for the child.
Surgery: If your child still doesn’t get any better or if he keeps having ear infections, his infected adenoids will be removed surgically. Another surgical option is the insertion of small tubes into your child’s ear so as to drain fluid and air from the affected middle ear.
Acute otitis media mostly gets better in the absence of complications but it can come back again. A temporary loss of hearing might be experienced by your child based on how severe the condition is. This can be resolved after treatment. Acute otitis media can sometimes cause:
- Ear infections that keep coming back again.
- Enlargement of your child’s Adenoids.
- Enlargement of your child’s tonsils.
- Rupturing of your child’s eardrum.
- Growth in the affected middle ear. It is termed medically as cholesteatoma.
- Delayed speech in infants that experience recurrent acute otitis media.
In very rare instances, mastoiditis or meningitis can surface.
Prevention of acute otitis media
As a parent, you can limit the chances of your children having acute otitis media if you do the following:
- Frequently washing their hands and toys. This can stop them from having a respiratory tract infection or cold.
- Not smoking where your children are.
- Ensuring they get a pneumococcal vaccine. You can also ensure to get them flu shots seasonally.
- Breastfeeding your infants rather than feeding them from a bottle.
- Not giving your infants pacifiers.