Acute Otitis Media (Middle Ear Infection)
The middle ear is the area of space behind the ear drum, which, if germs enter, can cause an infection to develop. Generally, the infection is fairly common and harmless, improving without any further complications and affecting mainly children. They are more common in children who inhale tobacco smoke, attend nursery or are not breastfed.
The symptoms vary dependent on age with younger children often pulling or rubbing their ears, being irritable, crying, coughing or having a stuffed nose. Older children will typically complain of earache. Symptoms will usually last for around four days and develop fairly quickly. Generally, if the infection is mild, the child will not benefit from antibiotics. Occasionally, fluid may run out of the ear where the ear drum has burst, but this will relieve pain by reducing the pressure on the ear drum.
If you child has an ear infection, then make sure to:
- Give painkillers – paracetamol or ibuprofen can help to relieve pain and prevent your child from becoming distressed. Do not give both at the same time unless under the advice of a healthcare practitioner. Always follow the directions on the patient information leaflet and speak to your pharmacist if you are not sure.
- Keep your child cool and hydrated – avoid over or underdressing a child with fever, keep the central heating down, but tepid sponging is no longer recommended. Offer regular drinks to your child or if you are breastfeeding, offer as many feeds as they will take.
- Body checks – check your child regularly throughout the night for signs of serious illness
Speak to a healthcare professional if you notice any of the following:
High fever, vomiting, no improvement after four days or fluid leaking out of the ear.
Seek urgent medical advice if your child is being more sleepy than usual, con- fusion, feeling dizzy, a stiff neck, a rash, slurred speech, seizures (fits), being sensitive to light or is aged 0-3months and has a temperature of 38°C or more.