Otitis Media

Acute otitis media (AOM) is a painful type of ear infection. It occurs when the area behind the eardrum called the middle ear becomes inflamed and infected.

The following behaviors in kids frequently suggest they have AOM:

  • fits of fussiness and extreme crying (in infants).
  • clutching the ear while recoiling in pain (in toddlers).
  • grumbling about a pain in the ear (in older children).

What Are the Symptoms of Acute Otitis Media?

Infants and kids may have several of the following symptoms:

  • crying, irritability, sleeplessness.
  • pulling on the ears, ear pain.
  • a headache, neck pain, a sensation of fullness in the ear.
  • fluid drain from the ear, a fever
  • vomiting, diarrhea.
  • a lack of balance.
  • hearing loss.

What Causes Acute Otitis Media?

The eustachian tube is the tube that ranges from the middle of the ear to the back of the throat. An AOM happens when your child’s eustachian tube becomes inflamed or blocked and traps fluid in the middle ear. The trapped fluid can become contaminated. In children, the eustachian tube is much shorter and more horizontal than it is in older kids and adults. This makes it most likely to become infected.

The eustachian tube can become inflamed or obstructed for numerous factors:

  • allergic reactions.
  • a cold.
  • the flu.
  • a sinus infection.
  • infected or enlarged adenoids.
  • cigarette smoke.
  • drinking while setting (in infants).

Who Is at Risk for Acute Otitis Media?

The risk aspects for AOM consist of:

  • being between 6 and 36 months old.
  • utilizing a pacifier.
  • attending daycare.
  • being bottle fed instead of breastfed (in babies).
  • drinking while putting down (in infants).
  • being exposed to cigarette smoke.
  • being exposed to high levels of air pollution.
  • experiencing changes in elevation.
  • experiencing changes in environment.
  • being in a cold climate.
  • having had a recent cold, flu, sinus, or ear infection.

Genes likewise contributes in increasing your kid’s risk of AOM.

How Is Acute Otitis Media Diagnosed?

Your kid’s doctor might use several of the following techniques to identify AOM:


Your kid’s medical professional uses an instrument called an otoscope to look into your child’s ear and identify:

  • inflammation.
  • swelling.
  • blood.
  • pus.
  • air bubbles.
  • fluid in the center ear.
  • perforation of the eardrum.


During a tympanometry test, your child’s doctor utilizes a small instrument to measure the air pressure in your kid’s ear and determine if the eardrum is ruptured.


During a reflectometry test, your child’s doctor uses a small instrument that makes a sound near your kid’s ear. Your kid’s physician can identify if there’s fluid in the ear by paying attention to the noise reflected back from their ear.

Hearing Test

Your doctor may perform a hearing test to identify if your kid is experiencing hearing loss.

How Is Acute Otitis Media Treated?

The majority of AOM infections solve without antibiotic treatment. Home treatment and pain medications are typically advised prior to prescription antibiotics are tried to prevent the overuse of antibiotics and lower the risk of adverse responses from antibiotics. Treatments for AOM include:

Home Care

Your doctor might suggest the following house care treatments to ease your child’s pain while awaiting the AOM infection to go away:

applying a warm, damp washcloth over the infected ear.
utilizing over-the-counter (OTC) ear drops for pain relief.
taking OTC painkiller such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and acetaminophen (Tylenol).


Your doctor may likewise recommend eardrops for pain relief and other pain relievers. Your medical professional may prescribe prescription antibiotics if your signs don’t disappear after a couple of days of house treatment.


Your medical professional may suggest surgery if your kid’s infection doesn’t react to treatment or if your kid has persistent ear infections. Surgery options for AOM consist of:

Adenoid Removal

Your kid’s doctor may recommend that your kid’s adenoids be surgically removed if they’re enlarged or infected and your child has persistent ear infections.

Ear Tubes

Your physician might suggest a surgery to insert tiny tubes in your kid’s ear. The tubes allow air and fluid to drain pipes from the middle ear.

What Is the Long-Term Outlook?

AOM infections typically get better with no complications, but the infection may take place once again. Your kid might likewise experience short-term hearing loss for a short time. But your kid’s hearing must return rapidly after treatment. Often, AOM infections can cause:

  • persistent ear infections.
  • bigger adenoids.
  • enlarged tonsils.
  • a ruptured eardrum.
  • a cholesteatoma, which is a development in the middle ear.
  • speech hold-ups (in children who have recurrent otitis media infections).

In rare cases, an infection in the mastoid bone in the skull (mastoiditis) or an infection in the brain (meningitis) can take place.

How to Prevent Acute Otitis Media

You can decrease the possibilities of your child having AOM by doing the following:

  • wash hands and toys often to minimize your chances of getting a cold or other respiratory infection.
  • quit cigarette smoke.
  • get seasonal flu shots and pneumococcal vaccines.
  • breastfeed babies instead of bottle feeding them if possible.
  • avoid providing your baby a pacifier.



Updated: August 4, 2016 — 10:28 am

The Author

Reyus Mammadli

Healthy lifestyle advisor. Bachelor Degree of Medical Equipment and Electronics.
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