Otitis media is commonly called ear infection. This is simply an infection of the middle ear. It is very common, especially in children between six months and three years of age. It is usually unserious, and not contagious if well managed. Most cases of otitis media occur during cold and is accompanied with fever.
Children are often prone to repeated middle ear infections, especially children in the following categories:
• Babies born prematurely
• Younger children, because they have shorter Eustachian tubes (a tube connecting the middle ear to the inner ear)
• Children who have frequent colds
Viruses or bacteria (germs) cause middle ear infection. The Eustachian tube connects the middle ear with the back of the throat. Germs can travel from the back of the throat when the Eustachian tube is damaged, causing middle ear infections. This is why children with cold or throat infections may also have ear infections. Otitis external is mainly caused by bacteria and poor skin hygiene.
Signs and symptoms
Otitis media: Older children will complain of earache and, often, fever. Younger ones might not say they have an earache, but might have an unexplained fever, be cranky or irritable. They may also have trouble sleeping, tug or pull at their ears, and have trouble hearing quiet sounds. Fluid may also drain out of their ear (ear discharge). It may be clear or pus-like. This fluid could contain germs.
Otitis external is less severe, but it may present with rashes, or boil on the outer ear lobes.
Doctors diagnose middle ear infections by looking at the inner ear to see the ear drum (tympanic membrane) with a special lighted instrument called an otoscope.
• Antibiotics can be prescribed for children under six months of age or for children with other serious medical problems
• Paracetamol (aceta-minophen) or ibuprofen is also given to reduce pain. Doctors don’t give ibuprofen to babies under six months, though
• Children usually feel better within a day of starting an antibiotic course. Parents should use antibiotics only as directed, and they should keep giving the child until the drug finishes, even if the child feels better
• Wash your hands and your child’s hands often to reduce the chance of getting a cold
• Breastfeed babies exclusively
• Avoid bottle-feeding when baby is lying down.