Otitis media – Understanding the basics

More often people complain about the ear pain when they have cold and cough. Also we see people relating ear pain to cold and cough which does mean that they are likely to have ear infection. Let us see to the details of the infection like its symptoms, causes, risk factor and finally the treatment.

Symptoms of Otitis Media

The infection in the middle ear (the space behind the eardrum where tiny bones pick up vibrations and pass them to the inner ear) very frequently accompanies a common cold,  flu, or other types of respiratory contagions. This  reason for this is that the middle ear is connected to the upper respiratory tract by a tiny channel known as the Eustachian tube. Germs that are increasing in the nose or sinus cavities can climb up to the Eustachian tube and enter the middle ear and start growing.

Causes of an Ear Infection or Otitis Media

The middle ear is supposed to be well ventilated by air that normally passes up from behind the nose, through the Eustachian tube, keeping the middle ear clean and dry. When there is not sufficient fresh air ventilating the middle ear, such as when the Eustachian tube is clogged or blocked, the area becomes soggy, stagnant and warm, a perfect breeding ground for germs. In children and infants, the Eustachian tube is regularly too soft or undeveloped and has a harder time staying open. Allergies, post nasal drainage, sinus infections, common cold viruses and adenoid problems can all affect  the Eustachian tube’s ability to let air pass into the middle ear.

Risk factors involved if ear infections are left untreated

Most parents are disappointingly familiar with ear infections. Apart from wellness baby visits, ear infections are the most common reason for trips to the pediatrician. Nowadays, almost half of all antibiotic prescriptions written for children are for ear infections. Untreated ear infections can lead to more serious complications, including mastoiditis (a rare swelling of a bone adjacent to the ear), hearing loss, and perforation of the eardrum, meningitis (the protective membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord), labyrinthitis (the inner ear), facial nerve paralysis, and possibly in adults resulting in Meniere’s disease. Most impediments are the result of the infection spreading to another part of the ear or head.

Can otitis media be prevented?

Strictly speaking, it’s not possible to prevent middle ear infections, but there are some things you can do, that may lessen your child’s risk of developing the problem. Those include, making sure your child is up-to-date with their routine vaccinations, particularly the pneumococcal vaccine and the DTaP/IPV/Hib (5-in-1) vaccine, avoid exposing your child to smoky environments (especially passive smoking), don’t give your child a dummy once they are older than 6 to 12 months old, don’t feed your child while they are lying flat on their back and if possible feed your baby with breast milk rather than a formula milk. Shunning contact with other children who are unwell may also help reduce your child’s chances of catching an infection that could lead to a middle ear infection.

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