What Is Acute Otitis Media

By Medically reviewed by Panel Perubatan Hello Doktor

In this article:

  • Know the basics
  • Know the symptoms
  • Know the causes
  • Know the risk factors
  • Understand the diagnosis & treatment
  • Lifestyle changes & home remedies

Know the basics

What is acus otitis media?

Acute otitis media is a painful type of ear infection. It occurs when the area behind the eardrum, called the middle ear, becomes inflamed and infected.

Know the symptoms

What are the signs and symptoms of acute otitis media?

Infants and young children often have the following symptoms:

  • Constant crying
  • Irritability
  • Sleeplessness
  • Discomfort in the ears
  • Ear pain
  • Headache
  • Neck pain
  • Feeling of fullness in the ear
  • Fluid/pus discharge from the ear
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lack of balance
  • Hearing loss

Know the causes

What causes acute otitis media?

The Eustachian tube runs from the middle ear to the back of the throat. Acute otitis media occurs when your child’s Eustachian tube is swollen or clogged, blocking the middle ear fluid. The trapped fluid may become infected. In young children, the tube is shorter and more horizontal in orientation than it is in older children and adults. This makes them more susceptible to infections.

The Eustachian tube may become swollen or blocked for several reasons, such as:

  • Allergy
  • Cold
  • Flu
  • Sinus infection
  • Infected or enlarged adenoids
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Drinking while laying down (in infants)

Know the risk factors

Who is at risk of acute otitis media?

Factors that increase the risk of acute otitis media include:

  • Children from 6 to 36 months old
  • Babies using pacifiers
  • Attending daycare
  • Being bottle-fed
  • Drinking while laying down (in infants)
  • Exposure to cigarette smoke
  • Exposure to high levels of air pollution
  • Experiencing changes in altitude
  • Experiencing changes in climate
  • Being in a cold climate
  • Having had a recent cold, flu, sinus or ear infection

Genetics also play an important role in the increased risk of acute otitis media.

Understanding the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided herein is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with a doctor for more information.

How is acute otitis media diagnosed?

The doctor may require one or more of the following methods to diagnose acute otitis media:

Otoscope

The doctor uses an otoscope to look into a baby’s ear to detect:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Blood
  • Pus
  • Fluid in the middle ear
  • Perforation of the eardrum

Tympanometry

During a tympanometry test, the doctor uses a small instrument to measure the air pressure in your child’s ear to determine if the eardrum is ruptured.

Reflectometry

During a reflectometry test, the doctor uses a small instrument to create sounds near the baby’s ear. The doctor would be able to determine if there is fluid in the ear by listening to the sound reflected from the ear.

Hearing test

The doctor may perform a hearing test to determine if your child is experiencing hearing loss.

How is acute otitis media treated?

Most cases can be treated without antibiotics. Doctors often recommend home treatment and pain medication before trying antibiotics to avoid overuse and reduce its side effects.

The doctor may recommend home remedies for children, such as:

  • Applying a moist and warm washcloth over the infected ear
  • Using over-the-counter ear drops
  • Using over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and acetaminophen (Tylenol)

Medication

The doctor may also prescribe ear drops to relieve pain, along with other pain medications. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics if your symptoms do not go away after a few days of home treatment.

Surgery

The doctor may recommend surgery if your child’s infection does not respond to other treatments or if your child has recurrent ear infections. Surgical options for acute otitis media include:

  • Adenoid removal: The doctor may recommend adenoid removal if the adenoids are enlarged or infected and the child has recurrent ear infections.
  • Ear tubes: The doctor may recommend a surgical procedure which involves the insertion of tiny tubes into the baby’s ears to drain fluid and air from the middle ear.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What living habits help you prevent acute otitis media?

You can help your child reduce their risk of acute otitis media by doing the following:

  • Washing hands and toys frequently to reduce the risk of getting colds and respiratory infections
  • Avoiding cigarette smoke
  • Getting a seasonal flu shot and pneumococcal vaccine
  • Breastfeeding instead of bottle feeding infants
  • Avoid giving infants pacifiers

If you have any concerns, please consult a doctor for advice on the best treatment.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources
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