Otitis media is accumulation of fluid or mucous in the middle ear, the space between the eardrum and the inner ear. When this mucus gets infected with bacteria then it is called ear infection.
- Severe earache
- Slight deafness
- Flu-like symptoms in children, such as vomiting and lethargy
- Babies with ear infections will be hot and irritable
- Rarely pus running out of the ear
- Common cold
- Blocked Eustachian tube
- Enlarged adenoids or tonsils
- Glue ear or mucous filled ears for several weeks
- A permanent hole (perforation) in the eardrum
- A growth of tissue inside the middle ear, called a cholesteatoma
- No treatment: Around 80% of cases of acute otitis media clear up within three days without any treatment. Perforated ear drums also usually heal by themselves.
- Antibiotics: While antibiotics may help with the short-term symptoms, there is no evidence that they make otitis media clear up faster or reduce the chance of complications. They may be prescribed if the infection is severe or is getting worse after 2-3 days. Long-term antibiotics can help prevent long-term or recurrent otitis media, but they have side effects, and research has not been able to prove that they are the best form of treatment for Otitis Media.
- Over the counter pain killing drugs like paracetamol or ibuprofen may be used to control the symptoms of otitis media (pain and fever). Aspirin should not be given to children under the age of 16.
- Nose drops containing decongestants or antihistamines may be used to reduce the swelling of the mucous membranes in the nose and back of the throat. In theory, this will help to keep the Eustachian tubes clear and allow mucus to drain from the middle ear, but again, this has not been proved to be an effective treatment for otitis media.
- In adults with chronic otitis media, drops containing antibiotic drugs have been shown to help reduce the amount of pus coming from the ear.
- Removal of the adenoids and tonsils may help if they are blocking the entrance to the Eustachian tube.
There is little evidence that any specific measures prevent otitis media.
If acute ear infections are treated quickly, and there is a follow up examination to check that the infection is completely cured, this reduces the chances of chronic (recurring) infection developing.