Many children under the age of 5 experience middle ear infections known as otitis media. Occasionally an adult will experience middle ear infections but typically these occur in young children. The infection although common in childhood is very uncomfortable for kids to experience. It is also a very trying time for parents or caregivers to go through as they try to comfort little ones. The good news is that the majority of these middle ear infections clear up with very little intervention in just a few days time. Children will typically outgrow these types of ear infections by the time they reach age 5. What are the risk factors, possible complications and treatments for otitis media?
Obviously age is a risk factor as usually middle ear infections occur in the young child. Babies from age 6 months to around 18 months are the most likely to experience middle ear infections but kids can commonly be diagnosed with the infection through age 5. Kids seem to be more at risk for otitis media when they are involved in group setting such as daycare because of the greater exposure to viruses that cause colds a common predecessor to an ear infection. Babies feed a bottle while being propped up or given a bottle while lying down also tend to have more middle ear infections than babies who are fed while being held upright.
Risk factors that can lead to middle ear infections in children and adults include seasonal allergies, bad air quality, a family history for otitis media and certain races such as those of American Indian, Inuits from Alaska and those of Canadian decent are more prone to otitis media according to Mayo Clinic.
The majority of otitis media can resolve without medical complications there are some cases where the infection does not clear up on its own and the child can experience short-term hearing loss, long-term hearing loss or even a ruptured eardrum. Infections located in the ear such as otitis media when left untreated can also move to other parts of the head. If a middle ear infection does not clear up after a few days and is left untreated it can lead to other infections such as a sinus infection or mastoiditis which is an infection in the space of the skull bone behind the ear. All of these complications must be treated medically.
A doctor may use the “wait-and-see approach if the child has a mild case of otitis media, is otherwise healthy and is older than 6 months of age as long as the symptoms are mild in nature. This is because a virus causes most cases of otitis media and antibiotics will not help. The doctor will usually recommend an over-the-counter pain reliever to reduce the discomfort of an ear infection. The doctor to relieve the pain of otitis media may prescribe a prescription eardrop that is numbing in nature.
The doctor may prescribe a course of antibiotics if a baby younger than 6 months of age has otitis media or if the child has had two or more cases of otitis media in a consecutive 30-day period.
Drainage tubes may be considered if there are multiple occurrences of otitis media and the doctor suspects that the hearing has been or may be affected or if the child has not responded well to antibiotic therapy. Myringotomy and tube insertion is the most common procedure suggested when all else fails to control the occurrence of repeat otitis media. These drainage tubes typically will come out, as the child grows older. Unfortunately some children will continue to experience otitis media even after having tubes placed in the ears and may need to have repeated placement of tubes or the surgeon may recommend that the child’s adenoids be removed if it is suspected that infected adenoids is contributing to the occurrence of multiple otitis media infections.
Mayo Clinic Ear infection, middle ear http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/ear-infections/DS00303/DSECTION=treatments-and-drugs