A bacterial or viral infection of the middle ear is known as acute otitis media (AOM)—the most common reason for childhood visits to the pediatrician. Because of the inflammation and build-up of fluids, AOM is often painful, especially for young children. Some youngsters may run a fever and have diarrhea, irritability and feel generally sick. Children are more likely than adults to get ear infections.
Acute otitis media may heal on its own, requiring only pain medication. When the condition is more serious or involves an infant, antibiotics such as amoxicillin are an effective therapy.
If non-infected fluid collects in the middle ear as the result of a cold, sore throat or upper respiratory infection, it is known as otitis media with effusion (OME). Symptoms may include hearing difficulties and a feeling of fullness in the ear. OME is most common in children between six months and three years of age. In most cases, treatment for OME is not required since the fluid accumulation resolves on its own. If the condition persists for several months, your child’s pediatrician or ENT (otolaryngologist) may recommend a minor surgical procedure known as myringotomy in which ventilation tubes are placed in a small opening in the eardrum to drain the fluid and relieve the pressure. Hearing is soon restored.