Middle ear infection in adults, babies and children

Middle ear infections occur in adults, children and babies. Children in particular suffer from this more often. The main symptoms are earache and deafness. Fever and droopiness also occur. Sometimes a middle ear infection goes unnoticed.

What is a middle ear infection?

A middle ear infection, otitis media , is also sometimes referred to as an ear infection. However, an ear infection can be divided between an infection of the outer ear and a middle ear infection. With a middle ear infection, the space behind the eardrum is inflamed. This mainly occurs in children in response to an infection.

Cause of middle ear infection

An infection is usually the cause of a middle ear infection. This could include an infectious disease such as scarlet fever or measles, or an infection of the tonsils. Because children are more likely to experience these “childhood diseases”, it is logical that middle ear infections are more common in children. During an infection, bacteria from the throat easily reach the middle ear via the Eustachian tube.

This is especially common in children up to the age of six. The reason for this is the immune system, which is not yet sufficiently developed in young children. A middle ear infection often occurs after a period of poor ventilation in the ear. There is then insufficient drainage, causing mucus and fluid to accumulate behind the eardrum. This causes severe pain in the middle ear.

Deafness during a middle ear infection is caused by pus accumulating behind the eardrum. If there is too much pus behind it, the eardrum can rupture. Then there is a running ear. A runny ear reduces pressure and pain on the eardrum. Sometimes there is some blood.

How much does this ear infection hurt?

A middle ear infection is very painful. In addition, there is itching in the ear, tinnitus and reduced hearing. The pain can be so severe that normal functioning is no longer possible. The pain usually disappears after two or three days, but can last up to a week, especially in young children. The pain can be alleviated by administering pain relief in the form of paracetamol.

Treatment in babies

A baby with a middle ear infection is crying, hangry and drinks poorly. They also often grab their painful ear. It is important to ensure that the baby gets enough fluid. A baby with a middle ear infection often also experiences a fever. In case of diarrhea or vomiting, it is important to replenish fluids. In principle, a baby with a middle ear infection can take a bath, but do not keep its head under water for too long. The baby is allowed to go outside, but keep an eye on the body temperature. If the middle ear infection persists for a long time or there is a high fever, consult a doctor.

In case of an early middle ear infection, it can help to use nose drops and steam. This releases the Eustachian tube, allowing inflammatory fluid to be drained.

When to see a doctor?

In some cases it is better to visit a doctor if a child has a middle ear infection. Children under the age of two who have inflammation in both ears should be seen by a doctor. Even very young babies, under six months of age, must be under medical supervision. A runny ear can occur during a middle ear infection, but should never occur prior to a middle ear infection. Also, a runny ear should end after 7 days. If not, consult a doctor. A child who becomes very drowsy and less responsive to his environment should see a doctor.

Long-term inflammation can cause a perforation of the eardrum. This perforation is sometimes permanent in nature. There is then a permanent runny ear. In the case of a severe middle ear infection, the doctor can incise or puncture the eardrum, causing the pus to drain. Antibiotics are often also given. When inflammation recurs more often, it helps in some cases to remove the tonsil.

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