The word ‘media’ comes from the Latin word for middle, and ‘otitis’ simply means an infection of the ear. But forget about all the latin: all you need to know is that otitis media is the commonest cause for frequent doctor visits for young children and infants.
Recurrent infection and inadequate treatment can lead to developmental delay and other complications, so keep an eye (and ear) out for these:
Common symptoms of otitis media
Older children with otitis media might complain of earache, headache, nausea or vomiting.
Repeated infections or persistent infection of the middle ear is named chronic otitis media, and includes the following common symptoms:
Long-standing infections of the middle ear which are not treated effectively can result in pus accumulating in the middle ear, perforation (tearing or puncturing) of the eardrum, and otitis interna – the spread of the infection to the inner part of the ear – causing deafness.
Who tends to get it?
Otitis media is an infection that results from various bacteria and viruses. Since a small tube connects the middle ear to the nose, the commonest source of infection of the middle ear is an upper respiratory tract infection. Infection or blockage of this tube can lead to middle ear infection. In children, this tube is smaller and more horizontal as compared to adults, thus increasing your child’s chances of infection by the accumulation of fluids.
Your children are also more susceptible to middle ear infections as they have a weaker immune system as compared to us adults.
Your kids might be more susceptible to ear infections, if they are exposed to:
Early diagnosis and treatment are key to dealing with otitis media. A physician can diagnose otitis media from the symptoms and by examination of the ear with special equipment, such as an otoscope, a device that focuses light into the ear canal. CT or MRI scans may be required in complicated cases, and tests to detect hearing loss and balance can also be helpful.
In cases where there is accumulation of fluid in the middle ear, surgical treatment to drain the fluid may be required. Whichever the case is, a doctor is the only person qualified to treat your child, so don’t hold off on the visit to the clinic.
Ears to us
As a child grows he is exposed to various environmental factors and infections. This cannot be prevented. However, some basic steps can be helpful in preventing otitis media in young children.