Otis media (middle ear infection) is an infection caused by germs which enter from nose and throat and get trapped in your eardrum – which is the middle part of the ear.
There are many factors that can cause middle ear infection and most are cured themselves. Any redness of the ear or yellowish fluid with a little blood coming out of the ear, then you need to see a doctor right away.
The eardrum, nose and throat are related to each other by Eustachian tubes from ears to nose.
Although middle ear infections are most common in children, developing a few days after a cold or flu, adults can also get them.
There are different types of ear infections – acute otitis media (sudden but temporary inflammation in the middle ear), recurrent acute otitis media (recurring ear infections that keep coming back again and again at regular intervals, and OME or chronic otitis media (a constant build up of sticky fluid in the middle ear).
It is said that half of all children have at least one ear infection by the time they are three years old. Children exposed to smoking in the home have more ear infections. Ear infections are more common in boys than girls.
Middle ear infections are not just caused by a cold or flu. The Eustachian tubes get infected due to bacteria, viruses, smoke or allergens – and swell, closing and trapping the infected fluid in the middle ear creating a breeding ground for the germs. These tubes can also be plugged when the clear mucus from the lining of the nose and middle ear become thick when you have a cold.
There are some harmful bacteria that are associate with respiratory infections (Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae) as well as lower respiratory infections (synctial virus and influenza viruses) that cause ear infection. This inflammation causes a thick mucus in the nasal passages and nose. Even the Rhinovirus (the cause of the common cold) can be responsible.
Allergies to such things as pollen or animal hair can also cause inflammation of the nasal passages. This may not be the direct cause to an ear infection, but it does cause the inflammation and congestion to the nasal passage as well as high fever which can be lead to an ear infection.
Some children have health problems that will increase their chance of developing middle ear infections. These are children that may have asthma or suffer from irregular breathing problems. Also children with sensitive allergies and sinusitis will develop middle ear infections easily. A child with cleft palate or an illness that restrains the body’s immune system are also at risk.
A child’s lifestyle, such as living in a home with smoking or small babies on formula can also develop middle ear infections. Mother’s milk gives more strength to the baby’s immune system than formula does. Exposing a baby to respiratory infections is another cause. When your child is sleeping flat and bottle feeding, the Eustachian do not function as well as when you are holding your baby with his head up.
Look for symptoms of a cold, sore throat, cough, sniffles, mucus in the nose, stuffiness, congestion, thick yellowish mucus. Tugging on the ear, not sleeping soundly, crying or mild fever are also symptoms. A worsening infection will show with a red ear and clear, yellowish or blood infused fluid coming out of the ear. IMMEDIATELY contact your pediatrician. A severe infection and your doctor will see redness of the eardrum, fluid behind it and a bulging eardrum with pus.
There could be severe and throbbing pain, signs of an upper respiratory tract infection, mild to high fever, hearing loss (mild and conductive), a sensation of fullness in the ears, popping (cracking or clicking sounds with swallowing or jaw movement), dizziness, nausea, vomiting, etc.
A child who get recurring ear infections can be vaccinated against the flu and pneumonia virus to help protect against ear infections.
Some children need to have surgery – either drawing the fluid from the eardrum or inserting tubes – which also helps maintain hearing ability.
Although most ear infections cure themselves, sometimes an antibiotic needs to be administered (penicillin or a form of penicillin). You can also try some home remedies. A heating pad or a decongestant can give relief. Do not give a child aspirin – it may be dangerous. Nasopharyngeal decongestant therapy may be used.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you hearing loss or your ears stay plugged for more than a couple days after a cold, see your doctor immediately – you could have an ear infection or fluid in the middle ear and if left untreated can cause permanent hearing loss.
There is help for hearing loss sufferers – click here to find out more.