Acute otitis media means that the fluid is present, usually pus, along with pain redness and sometimes fever. Chronic otitis media is characterized by the presence of fluid for extended period of time, usually several weeks or months, and there is also otitis media with effusion, which is characterized by the presence of fluid in the middle ear, but without infection. Also, not all forms of otitis media need to be treated with antibiotics.
Causes of middle ear infection in children
Children are particularly prone to middle ear infections between ages two and four. There are several reasons for this, one of them being that their Eustachian tube is shorter and more horizontal, which is favorable for the bacteria to grow and multiply. Also, the adeonoids in children are larger and often interfere with the opening of the Eustachian tube.
Other factors that contribute to otitis media in children include bottle-feeding, day care attendance and second hand smoke.
Symptoms of middle ear infection in children
The symptoms of otitis media depend on various factors and generally range from very mild to severe. As the fluid builds up inside the ear, it creates pressure on the eardrum, which causes pain. Older children may complain of the earache but very young ones will probably just tug at the ear, cry a lot and are generally more irritated.
Since laying down, sucking or chewing causes changes of pressure in the ear, the children will avoid such activities and it will lead to less sleep and lack of appetite.
If the pressure builds up a lot, the eardrum may rupture, letting the fluid out, which generally brings relief from the pain.
Treatment for middle ear infections in children
Doctors are able to make the diagnosis for middle ear infections based on medical history, physical exam and possibly some tests, which may include an exam using the otoscope. When a doctor decides about appropriate treatment for middle ear infection, he or she will consider the age and general health of the patient, the duration of the infection and whether it affects the hearing, as well as certain risk factors the child might be exposed to.
In many case middle ear infections clear on their own, so doctors often prescribe only pain killers and ear drops. In severe cases, or if the infection lasted a long time, they will prescribe antibiotics.