The middle ear is the part of the ear behind the eardrum. There is a tube called the Eustachian tube that connects this part of the ear to the back of the nose. When there is an infection in the throat, it can get into the middle ear through this tube and infect it too.
Middle ear infections are commoner in children because they have a shorter and straighter Eustachian tube than adults.
What are the symptoms?
When the infection gets into the ears it makes them swollen, blocked, and painful. Fluid builds up behind the eardrum. This makes it hard to hear and causes pain.
Fever is also usually present. Children who cannot tell where their pain is usually feel restless and may vomit. However, they may rub or pull their ear. If the eardrum tears as a result of the infection, fluid may be notice coming out from the ear.
What treatments work?
Most children recover within a few days even without treatment. However, some may need antibiotics. Painkillers, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen, may help keep down the pain while the infection resolves. Avoid giving aspirin to children, as this sometimes causes a serious complication.
If a child is in bad pain, or if the infection is not clearing up, the doctor may do a surgical procedure which involves putting a needle into the ear drum to relieve the pressure, and sometimes taking a sample of fluid to check for bacteria.
What will happen to my child?
Even after the infection has gone away, some children may have the infection coming back several times. However, as children get older, they are less likely to get ear infections.
After an ear infection, fluid can get trapped inside the ear (glue ear) and cause hearing problems stop the child hearing properly. Rarely, an ear infection can spread to the large bone behind a child’s ear. This can cause bad pain, swelling, and tenderness behind the ear.