Acute Otitis Media

What is Acute Otitis Media?

Otitis or acute otitis media, or more simply infection of the middle ear is common in children, and may come on in the middle of the night. It is occasionally described as a knife stabbing through the head. It may be very severe.

Often the child wakes up with an acutely painful ear, the pain coming from deep inside. There may be a fever, and small children may cry from the discomfort. Incidentally, it is also quite common if the child has been swimming in infected water. The germs invade the canal or the throat, and infection occurs from that side. It is important that backyard swimming pools be adequately sterilised. A fairly recent check in Sydney and Melbourne showed that up to 60 per cent of pools were not properly germ-free, simply because the owners had not carried out the instructions on the sterilising material properly. Too much is bad. Similarly, too little is also hazardous. It’s not hard to strike the happy medium.

Acute Otitis Media Causes

There are many causes. Commonly it tracks up from the back part of the throat and nose, perhaps during, or more likely several days or even weeks after, a simple sore throat or common cold. It may also follow sinusitis, or any of the infectious disorders, such as measles, mumps, rubella, tonsillitis or sinusitis.

Acute Otitis Media Treatment

It is well worth having the doctor check any ear pain, especially if it is related to a fever, or if it is worsening, or following some other type of infection.

It’s wise to have the doctor check an earache, especially if it worsens and there is a fever. Once again the physician will inspect the canal with the auriscope, and often the drum, normally a whitish, shiny colour, will be a fiery red. There may be swollen glands in front of or behind the ear, and a fever.

Usually antibiotics are prescribed. The semisynthetic penicillin (such as ampicillin or amoxycillin, or the cephalosporins) is often used with speedy results and excellent effect, but the doctor will decide what is best at the time. Infections in a district often run in a “fashion cycle,” and sometimes one particular antibiotic may be better than others.

Ear drops are not advised, for they do not help much. For pain relief and fevers, paracetamol elixir is effective and may be given with safety. Check the label for the dose that varies with age. Under no circumstances should anything be poked into the ear, unless under instruction from the physician.