Children are more susceptible and vulnerable to wide range of infections because of low immunity power. With age, resistance power increases and they are able to fight infections with little medical intervention. Ear infection is one of the common reason why parents frequently bring their child to a pediatricians office. These infections occur even before a child could speak and tell that his/her ear is paining. Children simply throw a lot of fuss and cry more than usual.
As children’s are easily prone to ear infections which if neglected can becomes major and treated only with surgery, every parent should take their children’s ear infection serious. Minor ear infection can be cured easily with proper medication and care.
Ear infection, medically termed as Otitis Media (OM), develops because of inflammation caused by bacteria in middle ear (portion of ear that lies between ear drum and oval window). This results in accumulation of infected fluid behind ear drum. Fluid can also be collected near eardrum if the child has more horizontal Eustachian tubes (tubes that connect middle ear to throat) that enables fluid retention instead of drainage. Generally, Eustachian tubes are smaller and more in children as compared to adults and this makes drainage of fluid difficult even under normal conditions. Risk of ear infection in children increases if the child has cold, sore throat or upper respiratory infection.
Another cause of ear infection is not cleaning of water in ears after bath or after exposure to moisture. Water can retain in ear and this provides perfect setting for bacteria to thrive, thereby causing ear infection.
Parents can look out for signs of ear infection in their child by observing them. Ear tugging, ear drainage, trouble in hearing or sleeping, fussiness, too much of crying, clumsiness etc. could be possible symptoms of ear infection in child. Ear infection may be accompanied by fever.
Ear infection can be divided into three major types- Acute Otitis Media (AOM), Otitis Media with Effusion (OME) and Chronic Otitis Media with Effusion (COME).
Acute Otitis Media (AOM)
It is the most common type of ear infection wherein parts of middle ear become infected and swollen. Middle ear comprises of three small bones named as Malleus, Incus and Stapes and are surrounded by air. They perform the function of transmission of sound vibrations from eardrum to inner ear. In AOM, infected fluid is trapped behind eardrum and causes hearing problems and earache. Generally, medications in form of antibiotics are used as treatment measure to cure AOM.
Otitis Media with Effusion (OME)
This happens when ear infection gets cured but the infected fluid still remains trapped behind eardrums. In such case, symptoms of ear infection are hardly revealed but the doctor is able to view fluid behind eardrum with help of special instrument. Most of the times, autoinflation process (healing of infection on it’s own) is employed. But, if the process fails to produce any positive results, then medical intervention becomes necessary.
Chronic Otitis Media with Effusion (COME)
This happens when there is recurrence of infected fluid in ear or when infected fluid remains in the ear for long duration even though there is no sign of infection. This type of ear infection can have negative impact on hearing and requires medical intervention. Accumulation of infected fluid for long time can cause ear perforation or rupture in eardrum and requires eardrum repair surgery as treatment measure.
As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure, parents should employ preventive measures against ear infection in their children. Washing your child’s hand to prevent spread of germs, vaccinating him/her against flu, cleaning of ears after head bath etc. are some preventive solutions against ear infection. Also, avoid child’s exposure to passive smoke and keep your child in sitting position while feeding from bottle. All these preventive measures go a long way in avoiding ear infection.