How to Recognize Otitis Media
“Otitis media” is the medical term that indicates an infection of the middle ear, ie the space behind the eardrum. When this space is healthy, it is full of air and is connected to the nasopharynx (the back of the nose / upper part of the throat) through the Eustachian tubes. It is possible that an infection may develop in this area causing fluid build-up and causing pain. You must be able to recognize your child’s symptoms and understand when to go to a doctor.
Recognizing the symptoms in adults and adolescents
1) Pay attention to the pain in the ear.
If you manifest otalgia, it can be a sign of infection. It can be a constant pain, dull, accompanied by palpitation or excruciating, sharp, at intervals, which manifests itself or in combination with a dull ache.
The pain is due to the presence of infected liquid in the ear that applies pressure on the eardrum.
This pain can also spread; you could show a headache or neck, for example.
2) Keep any slight temporary hearing loss under control.
It may be another symptom of the infection; when the liquid accumulates behind the eardrum, it can lead to a reduction in the signals going to the brain when they pass through the thin bones of the middle ear; it is, therefore, possible to have a small loss of hearing.
Some people also hear an intermittent buzz or buzzing inside the ear.
3) Check for fluid leakage.
When the ear is infected, you may notice a liquid that drains from the ear. Be careful if you also get pus or another type of secretions from the painful ear; this fluid may be brown, yellow or white and its presence may indicate the tympanic rupture; in this case, you must contact a doctor. 23 MAY 2018
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4) Note other complementary symptoms.
Sometimes, with the otitis media other disorders that accompany the infection are manifested, such as rhinorrhea or a sore throat; if you also have these problems, in addition to an earache, visit your doctor to see if you have an infection.
Check the Symptoms in Children and Babies
5) Look for the signs of otalgia.
Children tend to experience acute pain in the case of average otitis. A young child is not able to express this pain; however, you can check if she cries in an unusual way, especially when she is lying down, or if she pulls and tugs at her ears.
It could also be more irritable than usual or have difficulty sleeping.
6) Pay attention to inefficiency.
This symptom is more common in newborns who are breastfed or bottle-fed. When ingesting milk, ear pain increases due to the change in pressure; therefore, they no longer want to eat much, precisely because of suffering.
7) Check if you have trouble hearing.
Just like in adults, even in children, otitis media causes a temporary loss of hearing. Be careful if your child does not seem to feel as usual and is unable to answer your questions.
If it’s a newborn, make sure it responds to the delicate sounds as it normally does.
8) Check the fever.
It is a rather common symptom in children with otitis media. Measure your child’s fever if you suspect he has average otitis; in this case, the body temperature could be relatively high, from 37.7 up to 40 ° C.
9) Observe if the child has balance problems.
This is a further symptom of middle ear infection; since the balance is regulated by this part, in case of infection it can actually be compromised. Pay attention if the child suddenly shows difficulty walking or standing upright.
Instability is a symptom that occurs more easily in children than adults, but you should take note if you also have balance problems, in addition to other symptoms.
10) Pay attention to nausea and vomiting.
Otitis media can also cause these discomforts in children, due to dizziness (loss of balance) due to infection, which can lead to vomiting. Therefore, it also seeks these disorders, in addition to others such as otalgia and a moderate hearing loss.
11) Know that the symptoms may not be dramatic.
Sometimes, the infection does not present many disorders; in reality, you or the child could manifest the loss of hearing as the only main discomfort. A warning sign could be if the child does not pay attention to school, for example, because he does not feel well.
Other children may experience a sense of “fullness” in the ear or that the ear “comes out” more often.
12) Check for fluid leakage.
Also, in this case, the presence of secretions generally indicates that the eardrum has broken; in other words, the infection has worsened and you should bring your child to the paediatrician if you notice yellow, brown or white liquid coming out of the ear.
Know when to contact the doctor
13) Call your family doctor based on how long the symptoms last.
Pay attention to the duration of the disturbances you manifest; you should take note if the symptoms occur after another infection you or your child has had, such as a cold, because in this case, you are more likely to suffer from average otitis, especially in children.
For infants younger than 6 months, the paediatrician should be referred to as soon as symptoms occur.
For children and adults who suffer from disorders for more than 24 hours, it is advisable to call the doctor for advice.
14) Go to the doctor if the temperature rises.
If you or the child has a fever, you should contact your doctor. Fever indicates an infection and you may need antibiotics to fight it.
If your child has a fever above 38 ° C, you should contact your paediatrician.
15) Talk to your doctor if your ear pain is severe.
In this case, it is appropriate to look for a therapy, because it means that the infection is getting worse or spreading; you must, therefore, call the doctor if you or your child experience particularly intense pain.
Pay attention if your child suffers more than is normal for an ear infection. For example, if you do not stop crying, it may be reason enough to contact your paediatrician.
16) Go to the doctor’s office if you see liquid coming out of your ear.
Both in adults and in children it is a sufficient signal to justify a medical examination since it is a symptom of the tearing of the eardrum; the doctor will then have to examine the ear to see if treatments are needed, such as antibiotic administration.
If you experience fluid leakage, you do not have to go swimming until the infection has disappeared.
17) Get ready for the different tests your doctor may have.
He could examine your ear or that of your child with an otoscope, an instrument that allows you to visually inspect the eardrum. During the visit, the doctor can also blow an airflow onto the eardrum to see if it moves as it should.
Another useful tool for the doctor is the tympanometer, which checks the presence of fluid behind the eardrum through pressure and air.
When the infection is persistent, you should also undergo a hearing test to see if there has been a leak.
18) Keep in mind that the doctor may not even intervene.
Many ear infections disappear by themselves and many doctors try to prescribe fewer antibiotics, because of the ability of bacteria to adapt; moreover, some otitis is caused by viruses. In both cases, antibiotics are not always necessary, since ear infections generally disappear within a few days.
Among other things, otitis media is not contagious, although the viruses that accompany the infection are sometimes there.
Once the infection has disappeared, the liquid may remain in the middle ear for up to a couple of months.
However, you can manage pain by taking painkillers like ibuprofen or paracetamol; if you need to give the drug to children, make sure it is in the pediatric formulation.
19) Go to the hospital if you or your child have a facial paralysis.
This is a rare complication of otitis media, due to the swelling of the infection that presses on the facial nerve. Although it is a disorder that generally resolves with the disappearance of the infection, it is extremely important to undergo a medical examination to check for any form of facial paralysis.
20) Go to the hospital if you or your child develop pain behind the ear.
A complication of the disease is the spread of the infection in other parts of the body. Pain in the posterior area of the ear can mean that the infection has spread to the underlying bone, the mastoid, causing an infection called mastoiditis, which causes hearing loss, pain and leakage of secretions.
This infection is usually treated in a hospital.
21) Go to the emergency room if you or the child show signs of meningitis.
Although rarely, otitis media can progress into this disease, which causes high fever, difficulty breathing and a severe headache; you may also suffer from neck stiffness or nausea, as well as complaining of sensitivity to light and a red rash. If you have these symptoms, you must go immediately to the emergency room or call 118.
22) Evaluate surgery with a trans-tympanic ventilation tube.
If your child suffers from persistent ear infections, you can consider this procedure. Usually, it is performed when the child has a hearing loss or delayed speech development due to hearing loss. Basically, the intervention consists of inserting a tube into the ear, so that the fluid can drain more easily.
Know the Risk Factors
23) Age is a risk factor.
Since children are not yet fully developed, their ear canals are smaller and have a more pronounced horizontal angle than adults. Because of this shape and structure, there is more likely to be an obstruction of some kind in the ear, which can become infected. Children aged six months up to two years of age are more likely to suffer from ear infections.
24) Colds can lead to average otitis.
The virus responsible for the cold can move through the Eustachian tubes that connect the ear with the back of the nose. In this case, both you and your child may develop an ear infection during a cold.
Kindergartens and nursery schools are places where you are more likely to get an infection; when a child lives in close contact with other children who may have a cold, it is very likely that he becomes ill.
Be sure to take the appropriate vaccinations, such as flu shots once a year, to protect against infections that can lead to average otitis.
25) Keep in mind that the season plays an important role.
Usually, children fall ill more often in autumn and winter, because the flu and the cold (which, as is known, also lead to ear diseases) are more common during this period.
For the same reason, if you or your child suffer from allergies, you are more likely to develop an ear infection when the allergens are more concentrated.
26) Be careful if you or the child snores or breaths from the mouth.
These behaviours may indicate that you have enlarged adenoids, a disorder that can increase the risk of otitis media. Talk to your doctor if you notice these symptoms, because surgery may be necessary.
Preventing Ear Infections
27) Breastfeed the baby for a year.
When newborns drink breast milk they are less likely to develop ear infections. Try to breastfeed for at least the first six months, although it is better for a whole year if you are able to manage it – breast milk provides the baby with the antibodies necessary to fight infections.
28) Succeed him sitting.
If you drink from the bottle lying down, there are greater risks of developing average otitis, because in the supine position the fluids can flow into the ears and cause an infection; make sure it is reclined to 45 ° when you feed it with a bottle.
29) Fight allergies.
People with allergies are more likely to suffer from otitis media, regardless of whether they are adults or children. If you have the ability to control allergies, you can reduce the chances of developing this infection.
You can take antihistamines to reduce discomfort, as well as try not to spend too much time outdoors during the period of maximum allergen presence.
If your problem is particularly severe, talk to your doctor to find other treatments.
30) Avoid cigarette smoking.
Both you and your child should not be exposed to smoking for many reasons related to health, one of which is precisely the increased probability of developing an ear infection; you must avoid all cigarette smoke, including passive smoking.
Poor air quality causes smoke-like effects and therefore increases the risk of otitis media.