When your child gets a cold, followed in a few days by a bad earache and fever, he or she most likely has an ear infection. Ear infection, otherwise known as otitis media, means an inflammation of the middle ear. An infection means that organisms, such as viruses or bacteria, have caused the inflammation. Allergies can also cause inflammation and lead to ear problems. When fluid sits behind the eardrum in the middle ear for weeks, this is known as otitis media with effusion. Fluid can remain in the ear for weeks to many months.
If your child is too young to communicate with you about their symptoms, you may notice them pulling on their ear, irritability, poor eating, and fever. Younger children are more prone to ear infections and fluid in the ear because of an immature immune system as well as anatomic differences. Younger children are also more at risk for ear infections and chronic fluid in the middle ear because of genetic predisposition, or if they are at daycare centers, or if they are exposed to tobacco smoke in the household.
Recurrent ear infections and chronic fluid in the middle ear can have big consequences in children and may lead to other major complications. Multiple courses of antibiotics for treatment can predispose a child to resistant bacteria. Chronic fluid in the middle ear can impair a child’s hearing as well.
Fortunately, your doctor can speak with you regarding your child’s history, look at the eardrums for any abnormalities, and with the aid of the audiologist, test your child’s hearing. Sometimes medical options can be beneficial such as medications, an allergy evaluation or reflux therapy. Other times, surgical treatment will help, such as the insertion of ventilation tubes in the eardrum with or without removal of the adenoids. Below are common signs that ventilation tubes may be needed.
Common Signs For Ventilation Tube Placement:
• Recurrent episodes of ear infections (Acute Otitis Media)
• Chronic fluid in the ear (Otitis Media with Effusion)
• Hearing difficulty from fluid in the ear (Otitis Media with Effusion)
• Changes in the eardrum from chronic ear infections or fluid in the ear
• Complications from Otitis Media
• Multiple antibiotic allergies/intolerances
• Poor immune system
• Developmental delays
• Speech, language or learning problems