Otitis media in children and how to treat it

Otitis media in children

When your child has an ear infection, he will show symptoms of high fever and fatigue with ear pain. There is no need to worry, as otitis media in children can easily be treated at home.

Middle ear infections are one of the most common diseases in children, 80% of children in the world will get middle ear infection at least once in their life, according to studies.

This disease mostly affects infants from the age of 6 months to two years, but everyone remains susceptible to infection. It may also occur in adults, but it is less common.

Symptoms of otitis media in children

Symptoms of otitis media in children may appear insidiously and are not directed to the disease, as we often see general symptoms such as fever, lack of appetite, crying, irritability with refusal to breastfeed.

Ear pain and hearing impairment are common symptoms of otitis media, but the child may not be able to express them well. Your infant will not tell you that he is suffering from ear pain. You, as a mother or father, must notice the symptoms of a middle ear infection to start treating it.

Middle ear infection may occur otitis media And it heals automatically without noticing its symptoms, we mention the most important Symptoms of ear infection in children:

  • Painful ear expressed by pulling and rubbing the ear
  • Irritability and crying
  • caloric lift
  • decreased appetite
  • Difficulty sleeping because the pain intensifies when lying on the tip of the sore ear
  • Hearing problems
  • Fluid draining from the inflamed ear
Symptoms of otitis media in children
Symptoms of otitis media in children

Causes of middle ear infections

The cause of ear infection in children is due to a bacterial or viral infection that is transmitted to the middle ear through the Eustachian tube. This channel connects the middle ear to the nasopharynx and works to drain fluids and prevent their accumulation in the middle ear.

when Eustachian tube obstruction Fluid buildup in the middle ear often causes upper respiratory tract infection (cold or cold) to swell and block the canal.

The eustachian tube in newborns is small and has a lower slope than in adults. This increases the chances of obstruction and the occurrence of otitis media in infants.

Diagnosis of ear infection in children

The doctor inquires about the child’s medical history and asks some questions about the condition, symptoms, and the reason why the parents consulted him.

The doctor uses an otoscope to examine the child's ear. The speculum is inserted through the ear canal and into the eardrum. They look for signs of inflammation of the eardrum, such as redness and swelling.

The specialist may perform some maneuvers to assess the ability of the tympanic membrane to move. In the event of inflammation and fluid accumulation in the middle ear, the tympanic membrane becomes immobile.

Doctor examining a child's ear with an endoscope
The endoscope used for examining the ear in the otolaryngologist's clinic

How to treat otitis media in children

The treatment of otitis media in children is very similar Ear infection in adultsThe treatment is highly effective and its results are curative in the nature of the case.

The appropriate treatment method depends on many factors, including the severity and nature of the infection, in addition to the age of the child. In some cases, we may be satisfied with monitoring only.

may heal Otitis media in children Automatically without any treatment, the doctor may only prescribe painkillers to treat the symptoms, such as managing ear pain, or he may not prescribe anything and monitor the situation.

As for antibacterials, they are given in the most severe cases, in which the ear infection is due to the presence of bacteria. We do not resort to them when infected with a viral infection and in mild cases.

The treatment methods are as follows:

Wait and watch

Symptoms of otitis media usually improve within the first two days of infection, and most ear infections in children clear up completely after one to two weeks without any treatment.

The American Pediatric Association recommends waiting and watching in one of these situations:

  • Young children from the age of 6 months to two years who have had a slight degree of pain in one ear for less than 48 hours, provided that their temperature does not exceed 39 degrees.
  • Children older than two years who have had mild pain in one or both ears for less than two days, and their temperature should not exceed 39 degrees.

Ear pain treatment at home

Otitis media may cause severe pain in young people, especially during sleep periods. To relieve pain, oral analgesics such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can be used. Be careful not to use aspirin in children for fear of a serious syndrome known as Reye's syndrome.

Ear drops are also used at home to relieve the pain of otitis media in children, but when used, there is no perforation in the eardrum.

Antibiotics 

After examining and determining the severity of the infection, the doctor decides whether this patient needs antibiotics or not. The specialist may just monitor the middle ear infection during the first days of infection and note any improvement in symptoms.

The antibiotic is used directly for infants under 6 months of age diagnosed with acute otitis media. 

The reason doctors do not rush to prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs is the fear of developing resistance to bacteria, as excessive use of them causes the development of drug-resistant bacteria.

There is no benefit in using antibiotics in the treatment Otitis media in children Caused by viruses, in the event that the child does not improve and it is suspected that the cause of otitis media is bacterial, in this case an antibiotic can be prescribed.

Complications

Ear infections that affect children are usually not dangerous and heal after a while without any complications. In very rare cases, some complications may occur as a result of infection, including:

  • tympanic membrane perforation
  • Chronic suppurative otitis media
  • Cholesteatoma formation in the ear
  •  lack or loss hearing
  • Acute mastoiditis
  • rock osteitis
  • Inflammation of the inner ear
  • Meningitis
  •  Brain abscess (the most serious complication)
Endoscopic images showing the difference between a normal eardrum and a tympanic membrane in the context of otitis media
The difference between a normal eardrum and a tympanic membrane in the context of acute otitis media

Prevention of ear infection in children

To prevent middle ear infections in children, it is necessary to stay away from the predisposing causes of infection and strengthen the child's immunity, and this is done through the following:

  • Breastfeeding for its role in strengthening immunity
  • Securing the necessary vaccinations
  • to avoid smoking next to the child
  • Take care to protect your child from catching a cold
  • Wash children's hands and food well
  • Protecting a child from allergic attacks in case he suffers from an allergy to a particular substance

In the end, it must be emphasized on the need to consult a doctor periodically, although the treatment is simple in most cases of otitis media in children, severe infections may cause serious symptoms in the child and may leave permanent sequelae such as hearing loss, and always remember that an ounce of prevention is better than quintals of treatment.


Sources:

  1. Kidshealth
  2. Children's National
  3. Stanford medicine children's health

Common Questions

There are still few studies on the effectiveness of herbs in treating otitis media in children. Alternative medicine experts believe in the usefulness of olive oil, ginger oil, tea and garlic in treating ear infections, but this is still not practically proven.

Not enough studies have been conducted on the effectiveness of olive oil in relieving pain, the oil is one of the popular recipes that many believe to help relieve ear pain without scientific evidence to prove it.

It is used by heating a small container filled with oil and then dripping one to two drops inside the affected ear. It should be noted that this method may cause side effects such as itching and inflammation of the outer ear. It is strictly forbidden to use it in the event of a perforation of the eardrum, so it is preferable to consult a doctor before starting the treatment.

Choosing the best medicine depends on the nature of the inflammation and the severity of the condition. We may be satisfied with the pain-relieving drops in mild cases of infections, and in the most severe cases, we may resort to antibacterials such as the compound ear drops of ciprofloxacin and dexamethasone.

The causes of ear pain are many and varied in children, the most important of which are:

  •  Inflammation of the middle ear
  • Traumatic injury to the ear (as when using the pick)
  • Obstruction of the ear with cerumen secretions or a foreign body
  • Infections of the pharynx, such as tonsillitis

A child with a weak immune system may suffer from recurring middle ear infections, and the reason for the recurrence may be the presence of predisposing factors such as allergies, sinusitis, ear infections and deformities, and the frequent occurrence of infections in the upper respiratory tract, especially the common cold.

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