Ear infection - acute

Otitis media - acute; Infection - inner ear; Middle ear infection - acute

Ear infections are one of the most common reasons parents take their children to the health care provider. The most common type of ear infection is called otitis media. It is caused by swelling and infection of the middle ear. The middle ear is located just behind the eardrum.

An acute ear infection starts over a short period and is painful. Ear infections that last a long time or come and go are called chronic ear infections.

Ear infection - acute

Is your child irritable, inconsolably crying, feverish, and having trouble sleeping? If so, your child may have an ear infection. Ear infections are one of the most common reasons parents take their children to the doctor. The most common type is called otitis media, which means an inflammation and infection of the middle ear. The middle ear is located just behind the eardrum. The Eustachian tube runs from the middle of each ear to the back of the throat. This tube drains fluid normally made in the middle ear. If the tube gets blocked, fluid can build up, leading to infection. Ear infections are common in infants and children because their tiny. Eustachian tubes become easily clogged. They're often caused by allergies, colds, and excess mucus and saliva produced during teething. Infants with an ear infection will often be irritable. You may have a hard time consoling their crying, and your child may have a fever and not sleep very well. Older children may have an ear ache and tell you their ear feels full. Because ear infections have fluid behind the ear drum, you can use an electronic ear monitor to detect this fluid at home. Children under 6 months old who might have an ear infection need to see a doctor. Your child's doctor will look inside the child's ear using an instrument called an otoscope. The doctor might see areas of redness, air bubbles behind the ear drum, and fluid inside the middle ear. Often, an ear infection will clear up on its own. For older children, you can place a warm cloth or bottle on their ear and give them over-the-counter ear drops to relieve their pain. If bacteria caused the ear infection, your child may need to take antibiotics. In fact, all ear infections in children under 6 months old are treated with antibiotics. If the infection does NOT go away, on its own or with treatment, the doctor may recommend ear tube surgery. In this procedure, a tiny tube is inserted into the eardrum to drain the fluid. The tube will usually fall out on its own. Ear infections are very treatable, but they may come back again. If your child has to take an antibiotic, make sure they take all of the medicine.

Ear anatomy

The ear consists of external, middle, and inner structures. The eardrum and the 3 tiny bones conduct sound from the eardrum to the cochlea.

Middle ear infection (otitis media)

Otitis media is an inflammation or infection of the middle ear. Acute otitis media (acute ear infection) occurs when there is bacterial or viral infection of the fluid of the middle ear, which causes production of fluid or pus. Chronic otitis media occurs when the eustachian tube becomes blocked repeatedly due to allergies, multiple infections, ear trauma, or swelling of the adenoids.

Ear tube insertion

If your child gets a lot of ear infections, he may need to have surgery. Let's talk about ear tube insertion. So, why does my child need ear tube surgery? Your child has been having ear infections, probably for a long time, and they either won't go away or they keep coming back. If your child doesn't have ear tube surgery, there's a chance he will lose some hearing or have other long-term ear problems. Once a decision to have surgery has been made, it's good to know what happens during the surgery. Your child will be given general anesthesia. He'll be unconscious and unable to feel pain. The surgeon will make a small cut in your child's eardrum and remove any fluid behind it. Once the fluid is removed, the surgeon will place a small tube through the eardrum. The tube will allow air to flow inward. This keeps the pressure the same on both sides of the eardrum, while letting any fluid still behind the eardrum flow out. Your child will probably go home the same day as surgery. He'll probably be fussy and groggy while the anesthesia wears off. On your way home, you may need to stop at the drug store to pick up antibiotic drops to use in your child's ears for the first few days after surgery. The cut in your child's eardrum will heal on its own, and the tube will eventually fall out. Your child will be able to return to his normal activities shortly. But some doctors may recommend that your child use earplugs when he swims or bathes, to keep water out of his ears. After a child has ear tube surgery, he will usually have fewer ear infections. And if he does have an ear infection, he will usually recover faster than he used to.

Otoscopic exam of the ear

An otoscope is an instrument which is used to look into the ear canal. The ear speculum (a cone-shaped viewing piece of the otoscope) is slowly inserted into the ear canal while looking into the otoscope. The speculum is angled slightly toward the person's nose to follow the canal. A light beam extends beyond the viewing tip of the speculum. The otoscope is gently moved to different angles to view the canal walls and eardrum.

Ear tube insertion

If your child gets a lot of ear infections, he may need to have surgery. Let's talk about ear tube insertion. So, why does my child need ear tube surgery? Your child has been having ear infections, probably for a long time, and they either won't go away or they keep coming back. If your child doesn't have ear tube surgery, there's a chance he will lose some hearing or have other long-term ear problems. Once a decision to have surgery has been made, it's good to know what happens during the surgery. Your child will be given general anesthesia. He'll be unconscious and unable to feel pain. The surgeon will make a small cut in your child's eardrum and remove any fluid behind it. Once the fluid is removed, the surgeon will place a small tube through the eardrum. The tube will allow air to flow inward. This keeps the pressure the same on both sides of the eardrum, while letting any fluid still behind the eardrum flow out. Your child will probably go home the same day as surgery. He'll probably be fussy and groggy while the anesthesia wears off. On your way home, you may need to stop at the drug store to pick up antibiotic drops to use in your child's ears for the first few days after surgery. The cut in your child's eardrum will heal on its own, and the tube will eventually fall out. Your child will be able to return to his normal activities shortly. But some doctors may recommend that your child use earplugs when he swims or bathes, to keep water out of his ears. After a child has ear tube surgery, he will usually have fewer ear infections. And if he does have an ear infection, he will usually recover faster than he used to.

Eustachian tube

Ear infections are more common in children because their eustachian tubes are shorter, narrower, and more horizontal than in adults, making the movement of air and fluid difficult. Bacteria can become trapped when the tissue of the eustachian tube becomes swollen from colds or allergies. Bacteria trapped in the eustachian tube may produce an ear infection that pushes on the eardrum causing it to become red, swollen, and sore.

Mastoiditis - side view of head

Mastoiditis is an infection of the bony air cells in the mastoid bone, located just behind the ear. It is rarely seen today because of the use of antibiotics to treat ear infections. This child has drainage from the ear and redness (erythema) behind the ear over the mastoid bone.

Mastoiditis - redness and swelling behind ear

Mastoiditis is an infection of the bony air cells in the mastoid bone, located just behind the ear. It is rarely seen today because of the use of antibiotics to treat ear infections. This child has noticeable swelling and redness behind his right ear because of mastoiditis.

Ear tube insertion - series - Normal anatomy

The tympanic membrane, or eardrum, separates the ear canal from the middle ear.

Is your child irritable, inconsolably crying, feverish, and having trouble sleeping? If so, your child may have an ear infection. Ear infections are one of the most common reasons parents take their children to the doctor. The most common type is called otitis media, which means an inflammation and infection of the middle ear. The middle ear is located just behind the eardrum. The Eustachian tube runs from the middle of each ear to the back of the throat. This tube drains fluid normally made in the middle ear. If the tube gets blocked, fluid can build up, leading to infection. Ear infections are common in infants and children because their tiny. Eustachian tubes become easily clogged. They're often caused by allergies, colds, and excess mucus and saliva produced during teething. Infants with an ear infection will often be irritable. You may have a hard time consoling their crying, and your child may have a fever and not sleep very well. Older children may have an ear ache and tell you their ear feels full. Because ear infections have fluid behind the ear drum, you can use an electronic ear monitor to detect this fluid at home. Children under 6 months old who might have an ear infection need to see a doctor. Your child's doctor will look inside the child's ear using an instrument called an otoscope. The doctor might see areas of redness, air bubbles behind the ear drum, and fluid inside the middle ear. Often, an ear infection will clear up on its own. For older children, you can place a warm cloth or bottle on their ear and give them over-the-counter ear drops to relieve their pain. If bacteria caused the ear infection, your child may need to take antibiotics. In fact, all ear infections in children under 6 months old are treated with antibiotics. If the infection does NOT go away, on its own or with treatment, the doctor may recommend ear tube surgery. In this procedure, a tiny tube is inserted into the eardrum to drain the fluid. The tube will usually fall out on its own. Ear infections are very treatable, but they may come back again. If your child has to take an antibiotic, make sure they take all of the medicine.

Causes

Symptoms

Exams and Tests

Treatment

Outlook (Prognosis)

Possible Complications

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Prevention