Health

Signs Of Ear Infection In Toddlers & Other Things To Know

Updated on
signs of ear infection in toddler

 

Overview: Are Ear Infections Common?

As many as 50% of all kids experience ear infections before age two. And about 3 out of 4 (or 75%) get it at least once before turning five years old. (1)(2)

According to JAMA Pediatrics (Journal of the American Medical Association), babies and toddlers ages 3 to 24 months are more prone to developing AOM (acute otitis media) or an ear infection. (1)

Some kids also get ear infections repeatedly, and several might have it many times within one year. (2)

The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) warns that antibiotics aren’t always needed and can take longer to work. For example, in most cases, antibiotics don’t provide relief within 24 hours. (3)

In addition, about 30% of younger children (under two years old) might still feel ear pain even after 3-7 days of antibiotic treatment. (3)

Why are young children more prone to it than older kids and adults? 

We’ll answer that and also discuss the following topics or questions below:

“How does an ear infection happen?”

“How can you tell if your baby or toddler has an ear infection?”

“How is an ear infection diagnosed?”

“Does an ear infection go away without treatment?”

“Are there remedies you can try at home?”

“What treatments are needed for an ear infection, and does your child need antibiotics?”

“When should you call your doctor or take your toddler to the hospital for an ear infection?”

Continue reading for answers to these questions.

 

Anatomy Of The Ears & How They’re Affected By Infections 

Here’s what the inside of our ears look like:

(source: dshs.texas.gov)

 

All About The Eustachian Tubes & Why Kids Are More Prone To Ear Infections

These are narrow tubes that connect the nose to the ears. Younger children’s eustachian tubes are narrower, shorter, and have a more horizontal orientation than adults’ tubes. (see photo below) (4)

(source: medlineplus.gov) (4)

 

Kids are more likely to develop an ear infection than adults because the tubes’ orientation and length make fluid and air movement more difficult. When your toddler has a cold or upper respiratory infection, bacteria can easily get trapped in the eustachian tubes, causing an ear infection. (4)(5)

 

All About The Adenoids

Adenoids are two small pads of lymph tissues located at the back of the throat and nose. They play a role in your toddler’s immune system activity. (5)(6)

Because they are located at the back of the nose, swollen adenoids can block the eustachian tubes, leading to middle ear infection. (5)(6)

Children have relatively larger adenoids than adults. So they are more likely to have swollen or irritated adenoids. (5)(6)

 

All About The Eardrums

The tympanic membranes (also called eardrums) are thin flaps of tissues that vibrate when sound waves hit them. They’re located between the middle ear and the outer ear. (5)(7)(8)

Most ear infections happen behind the eardrum, so the fluids aren’t always easy to see. (5)(7)(8)

However, your child’s doctor can check for fluid buildup, which can cause the eardrums to bulge or become deformed. (5)(8)

Increased fluid or air pressure on the eardrums can cause them to tear up or rupture. (5)(7)(8)

Signs of a ruptured eardrum include: (7)(8)

  • Drainage (can be whitish, yellowish, greenish, or even bloody fluid)
  • Ear pain or discomfort
  • Trouble hearing (partial or total hearing loss in the affected ear)
  • Buzzing or noise in the affected ear

 

Severe cases of a ruptured eardrum can lead to dizziness or facial weakness due to paralysis of an affected facial nerve. (8)(9)

 

Types Of Ear Infections & Conditions

What’s AOM (Acute Otitis Media) Or Middle Ear Infection (With Or Without Ear Drainage)?

Acute Otitis Media (AOM) is also called the middle ear infection because it affects the middle part of the ear. (1)(3)

When your toddler has a cold or upper respiratory infection, it’s common for mucus or fluid to plug the eustachian tube. AOM happens when this fluid becomes trapped and infected in the middle ear. (1)

The trapped fluid buildup can often make the eardrum bulge, causing pain. However, symptoms can vary among children, and some don’t feel pain from the infection. Instead, they might feel some discomfort or slight hearing loss. (1)

(source: jamanetwork.com) (1)

 

Depending on the severity of the infection and the ear parts affected, hearing loss from AOM can be brief and temporary or long-lasting and permanent. So, it’s important to check for the symptoms of an ear infection (such as fluid in the ear canal and tugging on the earlobes) and take your toddler to a doctor if needed. (see below) (1)

 

ASOM (Acute Suppurative Otitis Media)

ASOM happens when the eardrums are ruptured, causing severe ear pain or buzzing. (9)

Small perforations or tears usually repair on their own. However, your toddler might need surgery to repair bigger tears in their eardrums. (9)

 

CSOM (Chronic Suppurative Otitis Media)

CSOM is described as persistent or recurrent discharge or drainage due to a ruptured or torn eardrum. This condition can be due to a persistent ear infection and can cause permanent damage to your child’s eardrums and hearing. (10)

About 60% of people suffering from CSOM have clinically significant hearing loss. (10)

Aside from antibiotics, your child’s doctor might recommend ear drops or cleansing to help alleviate the symptoms and prevent reinfection. (10)

 

Otitis Externa

Otitis externa affects the canal located between the eardrum and the outer ear. It’s also called “swimmer’s ear.” (1)(11)

It can be due to a fungal, viral, or bacterial infection from swimming, excessive moisture from sweat or high humidity, or insertion of a contaminated foreign object (e.g., dirty fingernails, cotton swabs, ear plugs, toys, etc.). (11)

 

Signs Or Symptoms Of An Ear Infection 

Symptoms of AOM can vary and depend on the infection’s severity and your child’s age or developmental status. We’ve listed some of the most common symptoms below.

 

Common Symptoms For All Ages

Pain & Discomfort (Earache Or Headache)

The middle ear is supposed to be dry. That’s why fluid buildup in the area can hurt. (2)

Ear pain is among the most specific symptoms of an ear infection. It’s usually sudden and can be severe. (1)

Toddlers or young children experiencing severe earache can wake up crying and might tug or beat on their ears. (2)

 

Hearing Problems Or Difficulties

Fluid in your toddler’s ears, whether infected or not, can block sounds and affect their hearing. (1)(2)(8) 

 

Drainage Or Whitish Material In The Ears

Pus or fluid buildup in the middle and inner ear is difficult to see outside. However, this fluid can also overflow and cause drainage, especially if the eardrums rupture. (8) 

Thankfully, a torn eardrum might still heal on its own. However, your child might also need surgery for severe tears. (8) 

 

Fever Or Elevated Temperatures

Your toddler might also have a fever or an elevated temperature of at least 100.4°F (38°C). This can be a sign of having an ear infection. However, any infection can cause a fever, so checking for other signs or symptoms is essential. (2) 

 

Sleeping Difficulties Or Discomfort While Lying Down

Buzzing, ringing, or pain in their ears might affect your child’s sleep. Some might also have trouble lying down because the position shift can also lead to changes in air pressure, making them feel uncomfortable. (1)(12)

 

Vomiting, Diarrhea, Appetite Loss, Or Tummy-Related Problems

In some cases, your toddler might also develop diarrhea, appetite loss, vomiting, or other tummy-related problems with their ear infection. That’s because the virus that causes ear infections can also cause a gastrointestinal tract infection. (2)(12)

 

Other Signs & Symptoms To Check (By Age)

Babies Under 6 Months Of Age

Fussiness, Irritability, Or Crying More Than Usual

Because they can’t talk yet, it’s extra challenging to find signs of certain infections or conditions affecting your baby. Due to the pain, your little one might cry, fuss, or feel more irritable than usual. (2) 

 

Tugging Or Hitting Ears

Babies with an ear infection might tug or hit their ears, a telltale sign of pain or discomfort. (2) 

 

Toddlers & Older Children: How Do I Know If My Toddler Has An Ear Infection?

Aside from the symptoms listed above, your toddler might also experience the following:

 
Clumsiness Or Loss Of Balance

The inner ear also acts as our bodies’ center of balance. 

 

So, your toddler or older child might feel clumsy or lose their sense of balance if they have an infection that affects their inner ear. (12)

 

Dizziness

Fluid buildup and the increased air pressure can also make your child feel dizzy. (12)

 

Adults

The symptoms listed above for toddlers and older kids can also apply to adults. 

 

When Should I Take My Toddler To The Doctor For An Ear Infection?

An ear infection isn’t usually a cause for panic, and most cases go away on their own. However, you can never go wrong in taking your toddler to a doctor anytime for a possible ear infection or other conditions affecting their nose and throat, which can affect their breathing.

That’s because babies and toddlers can have difficulty expressing what they feel. You might need a healthcare provider’s help determining whether they have an ear infection.

Getting the correct diagnosis also helps determine the right treatment options. It will also help you know whether they have a teething problem or other non-emergency conditions.

Here’s a guide to help you determine when to see your child’s doctor:

 

Emergency Situation: Call 911 Immediately

Take your child to the ER or call 911 if you notice: 

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Weakness (your toddler is too weak to stand or move)
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Any form of life-threatening symptoms

 

Risky Situation: Find Urgent Care Or Call Your Doctor

An ear infection can lead to mastoiditis, a serious inflammation or infection affecting the temporal bone (also called mastoid air cells) behind the ear. (13)

Signs of mastoiditis can include: (13)

  • Swelling, redness, or pain behind your child’s ear
  • Your child’s ear appears to be pushed forward

 

It’s also important to seek help if your child has the following symptoms: (8)(9)

  • Weakness on one side of their face (such as having a crooked smile), which can be a sign of nerve paralysis or ruptured eardrum
  • Unsteady walking or frequent loss of balance
  • Very high fever (temperature over 104° F or 40° C)
  • Persistent and non-stop crying even after two hours of taking pain relief medications (e.g., ibuprofen or acetaminophen)
  • Looking very sick
  • Persistent vomiting

 

Non-Emergency Concerns: Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Fever doesn’t go away after two days of antibiotic intake
  • Pain or ear discharge doesn’t go away after three days of antibiotic intake
  • Your child seems to remain unwell despite taking medications

 

General Questions Or Concerns: Call Your Doctor During Office Or Clinic Hours

  • Non-urgent concerns or questions, such as how long your child’s ear infection might last

 

Where To Find Help

You can find help in diagnosing your child’s condition and prescribing their medicines through the following:

  • Your child’s doctor (pediatrician or general practitioner)
  • Doctor of otolaryngology (specializes in the ears, nose, and throat; also called an ENT)
  • Any childcare provider at the ER

 

Diagnosis & Tests For Toddler Ear Infections

Diagnosis Based On Symptoms

Pus or fluid drainage is among the most common signs of an ear infection. (1)(2)

However, fluid in the middle ear isn’t always visible just by looking at the outer ear unless there’s drainage. Because an ear infection doesn’t always cause drainage, it might be easy to miss the fluid. (2)

Your child’s doctor will use an otoscope to properly view the eardrum and middle ear for signs of infection. With this device, the doctor can also check if your child’s eardrum is bulging. Aside from infected fluid (pus), a bulging eardrum is another sign of an ear infection. (1)

 

Hearing Tests

An audiologist will perform a test to determine whether the ear infection has affected your child’s hearing. This test doesn’t hurt. (2)

 

Tympanocentesis

If the ear infection persists, your child’s doctor might request tympanocentesis, wherein a fine needle is inserted through the eardrum to collect the fluid. The sample is cultured to identify the bacteria or virus causing the infection. (3)

The procedure can help your doctor choose the right medication and determine whether antibiotics are needed to treat your child’s ear infection. (3)

 

Treatments For Toddler Ear Infections

Will My Toddler Need To Be Hospitalized For An Ear Infection?

No. It’s unlikely that your toddler will be hospitalized for an ear infection. However, they might require surgery and hospitalization if:

  • There are serious complications
  • They need to have tubes installed to prevent recurring ear infections

 

Self-Care & Remedies To Help Your Toddler Feel Better At Home

Medications For Pain Relief

Your child will need OTC (over-the-counter) pain reliever medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen for their aching ears. (2)

 

Using A Cold Or Hot Pack To Reduce Pain

An ice pack helps reduce swelling and inflammation from an ear infection. You can also alternate it with a hot pack or heating pad.  (14)

 

Place the heating pad or ice pack in a small towel or cloth to avoid too much heat or coldness on your toddler’s skin. (14)

 

Medications For Fever Reduction

Ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help alleviate your child’s fever. However, aspirin isn’t recommended. (2)(15)

 

What Should You Do With Your Toddler’s Ear Discharge?

Wipe any discharge from your child’s ear. However, avoid using cotton buds (such as Q-Tips) and don’t plug their ears to avoid the risk of further infection.

 

Essential Oils For Ear Pain & Infections

  • Tea tree oil
  • Oregano oil
  • Basil oil
  • Clove oil

 

Using Antibiotics

Your child’s doctor might consider waiting a few days for the symptoms to clear up or improve before prescribing antibiotics. That’s because frequent use of antibiotics can lead to a more serious condition called antibiotic resistance (pathogens no longer respond to regular medications). (1)(15)

However, antibiotics are immediately prescribed for severe AOM cases, such as having a temperature higher than 102.2°F (39°C). (1)

Tell your child’s doctor about all the symptoms or signs you’ve observed. This will help them prescribe the right antibiotic and pain relief medications.

Your child’s symptoms might persist for a couple more days, though you’ll likely see some improvement within 2-3 days. (1)

It’s important to continue giving your child the prescribed antibiotic medicine even when their symptoms have improved, and they no longer have a fever. It helps reduce the risk of recurring infections or developing antibiotic resistance. (1)

 

Considerations Based On Age & The AAP’s Guidelines

The following are guidelines from the AAP on when doctors and pediatricians might consider prescribing antibiotics to children:

 

Babies Under 6 Months
  • Not included in the guidelines (3)
  • Antibiotic prescription may depend on the severity of the ear infection and other factors your child’s doctor will consider

 

Toddlers 6 Months To 2 Years Old
  • Mild to moderate infection (in one ear only), with temperatures less than 102.2°F (39°C) – Treat with antibiotics or observe first; antibiotics can be started if your toddler’s condition worsens or doesn’t improve in 48-72 hours after the symptoms began (3)
  • Mild to moderate infection (in both ears), with temperatures less than 102.2°F (39°C) – Treat with antibiotics (3)
  • Moderate to severe infection (in one or both ears), with temperatures higher than 102.2°F (39°C) – Treat with antibiotics (3)

 

Kids 2+ Years Old
  • Mild to moderate infection (in one or both ears), with temperatures less than 102.2°F (39°C) – Treat with antibiotics or observe first; antibiotics can be started if your child’s condition worsens or doesn’t improve in 48-72 hours after the symptoms began (3)

 

Tympanostomy Tubes (Ear Tube Surgery)

What Are Ear Tubes?

Tympanostomy or myringotomy tubes (or ear tubes) are tiny tubes inserted into a child’s eardrums to allow fluids to drain from their middle ear. (3)(16)

An ENT specialist inserts these tubes. Although it’s considered surgery, your child isn’t likely to require hospitalization for several days. They can go home the same day. (3)(16)

 

Who Needs Ear Tube Surgery & When Should They Get It?

Your child might need ear tubes if they have recurring or persistent ear infections that don’t improve with antibiotics: (3)(16)

  • At least three episodes within six months
  • At least four episodes within one year, with at least one episode in the preceding six months

 

How To Remove The Ear Tubes

The ear tubes typically fall off independently after around 12-18 months. The ENT can remove them from your child’s ears if they don’t. (3)(16)

Your child’s eardrums can heal on their own after the tubes are gone. In some cases, though, they might need further surgery to repair their eardrums. (3)(16)

 

Are There Risks To Using Ear Tubes?

Some of the risks your child might experience with ear tubes: (3)(16)

  • The tubes might fall off even if your child still needs them (about 30% of kids need to have their ear tubes reinserted)
  • Continued or new infections
  • Bleeding
  • Scarring or permanent damage to the ear drums, which can cause hearing loss
  • Need for further surgery if the tubes don’t come out when no longer needed

 

Eardrum Repair (Tympanoplasty Or Myringoplasty)

Possible procedures for eardrum repair: (8)

  • Tympanoplasty – Patching the eardrum holes using the patient’s own tissues
  •  Myringoplasty – Patching the holes using a special paper or gel

 

Dealing With Hearing Loss

Communicating With Your Toddler

  • Reduce the volume of the TV or sound devices at home so they hear you
  • Make eye contact and face them while talking
  • Speak louder than you usually do
  • Help them focus on what you’re saying by keeping distractions away

 

Treatment For Hearing Loss From An Ear Infection

  • Most hearing problems relating to ear infections are temporary
  • Antibiotic treatment can help treat the ear infection and subsequent hearing issues

 

When To Call Your Doctor For Hearing Loss

  • Your child still has difficulty hearing even after the antibiotic treatment is done

 

Outlook: What To Expect & Getting Well

How Long Do Ear Infections Typically Last?

Durations can vary depending on your child’s age, the severity of the infection, and the treatments used. Here are some typical scenarios with the use of oral antibiotics: (3)

  • Severe AOM and for toddlers younger than two years old: Around 10 days
  • Mild to moderate AOM and for children 2-5 years old: Around seven days
  • Mild to moderate AOM and for children 6+ years old: Around 5-7 days

 

Will A Toddler Ear Infection Go Away On Its Own?

Sometimes it does, but it doesn’t. Take your child to their pediatrician if the ear infection doesn’t improve or worsens after three days, especially if they’re already taking antibiotics.

 

How Fast Can My Toddler Become Better & Return To Regular Activities?

Recovery varies among children. Some kids might even feel good enough to return to their regular activities even if their ears still have a discharge. (3)

 

When Can My Toddler Return To School Or Daycare?

  • When their fever is gone
  • When their ears are no longer painful
  • When they no longer have ear discharge
  • When they feel well enough to join regular activities

 

Is My Toddler’s Ear Infection Contagious?

No. Ear infections aren’t contagious; however, they’re caused by viruses or bacteria that are. Your child’s common cold can still be contagious, but they can return to regular activities or school once their fever is gone. (17)

 

Possible Complications From Ear Infections

Damaged Or Torn Eardrums

A ruptured eardrum with a persistent infection can cause CSOM (Chronic Suppurative Otitis Media), which can cause permanent damage to your child’s hearing. (10)

Thankfully, most ear infections don’t damage your toddler’s eardrums severely. (2)(3)

 

Potential Hearing Loss Or Impairment

Fluids from an ear infection can lead to temporary or permanent hearing loss. It becomes permanent if serious damage to the eardrums occurs. (2)

 

Speech & Language Development Delays

Toddlers learn to start talking by listening. However, hearing loss or related problems can affect their speech development, leading to delays. (2)

Especially with recurring ear infections, your toddler might have difficulty hearing and/or understanding their teachers in preschool. They might also have problems learning how to speak clearly. (2)

 

Spread Of Ear Infection To The Brain Or Other Parts

Untreated ear infections can spread to the brain and other parts of the body, leading to serious conditions such as the following: (13)(18)(19)

  • Meningitis (swelling inflammation of the membranes covering and protecting the brain and spinal cord)
  • Brain abscess (swelling or pus-filled pockets in the brain)
  • Mastoiditis (serious inflammation or infection of the temporal bone located behind the ear)

 

Antibiotic Resistance

Ear infections are among the most common reasons children see a healthcare provider. Due to overuse of antibiotics, ear infections can also lead to antibiotic resistance. (20)(21)

A 2022 Microorganisms study showed that several bacteria that cause ear infections, such as Haemophilus influenzae and Streptococcus pneumoniae have become resistant to several antibiotics, including penicillin and ampicillin. (21)

 

Causes Of Toddler Ear Infection 

Some of the most common causes of a toddler ear infection: (1)(2)(5)

  • The common cold
  • Upper respiratory tract infection
  • Infected or swollen adenoids
  • Allergies
  • Milk in the eustachian tubes
  • Excess saliva or mucus produced during teething or pacifier use

 

Risk Factors For Ear Infections

Age

Shorter & Narrower Eustachian Tube

Kids are more likely to develop an ear infection than adults because their orientation and length make fluid and air movement more difficult. When your toddler has a cold or upper respiratory infection, bacteria can easily get trapped in the eustachian tubes, causing an ear infection. (4)

 

Still-Developing Immune System

Young children’s still-developing immune systems aren’t ready to fight infections. (22)

 

Being Sick With Coughs & Colds

Your child is more likely to have an ear infection if they have coughs, colds, or upper respiratory infection. (4)(5) 

 

Daycare Or Preschool

Your toddler is also more likely to catch a cold from other kids in a preschool, daycare, or childcare facility than when they’re staying at home. (1)

 

Environmental Factors

Secondhand smoke exposure has also been shown to increase children’s risk of developing an ear infection. (1)(23)

 

Weather & Season-Based Factors

These can also increase your child’s risks for an ear infection: (5)(23)

  • Cold climate
  • Changes in the weather, season, or climate

 

Baby Feeding Choices & Practices

Breastfeeding has been shown to reduce a child’s for AOM (1)

Horizontal feeding can also increase your baby’s likelihood of ear infections because milk (formula or breast milk) can enter the eustachian tubes. (5)

 

Family Medical History

Children in families with a history of AOM are also more likely to get an ear infection. (1)

 

Race & Ethnicity (Such As Alaska Native Heritage)

Some children might also be more prone to ear infections due to their ethnicity or race. For example, according to a 2022 Ear and Hearing journal study, children of Alaska Native heritage are 4-5 times more likely to develop AOM than the national average. (23)

 

Certain Medical Conditions Or Situations

Atopy (Being Sick With Chronic Ailments)

Atopy or conditions such as asthma, eczema, and seasonal allergies can also make your toddler more prone to an ear infection. (1)

 

Large Adenoids (Check For Snoring)

Children have relatively larger adenoids than adults. So, they are more likely to have swollen or irritated adenoids. (5)(6)

Some kids also have larger adenoids than others. You might notice this if they snore.

 

Cleft Palate

The palate muscles help get air into the middle ear, reducing infection risks. Children with a cleft palate can be more prone to AOM because fluid can easily build up in their middle ear. (24)

 

What Should You Do If Your Toddler Has Chronic Ear Infections?

Below are some tips on how to prevent ear infections. It is ideal to talk to your child’s doctor about your concerns because they can recommend further treatment options (such as ear tubes) if needed.

 

How To Prevent Ear Infections

Knowing the causes and risk factors we’ve discussed above, here are some ways to help prevent toddler ear infections:

  • Prevent & seek treatment for coughs, colds, and flu
  • Vaccinations (e.g., flu, pneumococcal, etc.)
  • Avoid sick people
  • Practice good hygiene and frequent handwashing
  • Reduce exposure to allergens
  • Consider breastfeeding your baby
  • Bottle-feed in an upright position
  • Avoid exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke

 

FAQs & Limitations

Should I Cover My Toddler’s Ears If They Have An Infection?

No. Covering your toddler’s ears can prevent pus from draining out, possibly worsening the infection. (17)

 

Can My Toddler Go To High Altitudes Or Ride A Plane With An Ear Infection?

Experts and pediatricians have varying opinions on whether or not someone with an ear infection can ride a plane or go to high altitudes. Note, however, that changes in air pressure with the sudden change in altitude can cause pain in the infected ear. (17)

Cabin pressure changes in the plane can also damage your toddler’s infected eardrums. (17)

Your pediatrician might recommend waiting until the infection clears before traveling with your toddler. Thankfully, the risks of permanent ear damage from flying with an ear infection are minimal. (17)

 

Is There Medication I Can Give My Toddler Before Riding A Plane?

If flying can’t be helped, you might consider giving your toddler a dose of pain medication (acetaminophen or ibuprofen) about an hour before the take-off schedule. (17)(25)

 

Can My Toddler Still Go Swimming If They Have An Ear Infection?

Yes, if they have AOM or a middle ear infection. AOM isn’t caused by swimming. Also, the infection isn’t likely to worsen if your child’s ears get wet. (17)

It’s important to warn older children or adults to avoid diving into deep water because that can hurt their eardrums if they have an infection. (17)

However, if your child has swimmer’s ear or otitis externa (infection in the canal between the eardrum and the outer ear), they should avoid swimming until the infection clears up. (1)(11)(26)

 

Ear Infections Vs. Similar Diseases & Medical Conditions

How Do I Know If My Toddler Has An Ear Infection Or A Cold?

Your toddler’s ears can still be clogged by mucus or fluids when they have a cold. However, it’s simply a cold if the fluid in their ears doesn’t get infected. (1)(2)

Colds can, however, progress into an ear infection, as already explained above. (1)(2)

 

Other Conditions That Can Cause Earache

OME (Otitis Media With Effusion)

Otitis media with effusion* is a condition wherein there’s fluid in the middle ear space, but it isn’t due to an infection. It doesn’t require antibiotics unless it comes from an infection that needs to be treated. (1)(27)

*Effusion means an abnormal collection of fluids in hollow spaces

This fluid can still come from a sore throat, cold, or upper respiratory infection, but doesn’t become infected in the ears. Even though the fluid isn’t infected, it can still be a problem and cause hearing loss or other issues. (1)(2)

It can also be extra challenging to know that your child has this problem in their ears because they might not have a fever or ear pain. Watch out for other telltale signs that something’s possibly wrong with their ears, such as tugging on their outer ears or difficulty hearing. (2)

The good news is that OME usually resolves independently, without any form of treatment, within 4-6 weeks. (27) 

 

COME (Chronic Otitis Media With Effusion)

Chronic OME is a medical term for an ear infection that’s persistent or keeps recurring. It still doesn’t require antibiotics. However, your child’s doctor might recommend some prevention tips or ear tubes (myringotomy tubes), especially if it: (27)

  • Makes your child’s ear hurt
  • Makes them have trouble sleeping
  • Affects their hearing, speech, and school performance

 

Ear tubes are often recommended if your child experiences OME for more than 2-3 months. (27)

 

Tests For Effusion (OME)

It can be difficult to diagnose because OME lacks obvious signs of infection (such as fever or drainage). Here are some tests your child’s doctor might consider: (28)(29)

 

Acoustic Reflectometry

This test uses sonar-based sound emitted from a lightweight, portable instrument. It measures the possibility of OME by determining the eardrum’s response to the sound. (28)

 

Tympanometry

It tests the middle ear’s condition and the eardrum’s mobility

A soft probe is inserted into the ears, creating an airtight seal. Then, a tympanometer device measures the sound flow under changing air pressures

(29)

 

Finding Help & Learning More About Ear Infections

  • Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA) – audiologist.org
  • Academy of Rehabilitative Audiology (ARA) – audrehab.org
  • Acoustical Society of America (ASA) – acousticalsociety.org
  • American Academy of Audiology (AAA) – audiology.org
  • American Auditory Society (AAS) – amauditorysoc.org
  • American Hearing Research Foundation (AHRF) – american-hearing.org

 

Research & Other Important Information On Ear Infections 

Continued studies and research on ear infections help in:

  • Better understanding of the causes and risks
  • Formulating more effective medications for quicker symptom relief
  • Finding ways to prevent recurring infections
  • Seeking possible options to reduce and possibly reverse hearing loss 

 

 

References

(1) https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/2759422

(2) https://www.dshs.texas.gov/vision-hearing-screening/hearing-screening-program/ear-infections-what-you

(3) https://publications.aap.org/pediatrics/article/131/3/e964/30912/The-Diagnosis-and-Management-of-Acute-Otitis-Media?autologincheck=redirected

(4) https://medlineplus.gov/ency/imagepages/19596.htm

(5) https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000638.htm

(6) https://medlineplus.gov/adenoids.html

(7) https://medlineplus.gov/ency/imagepages/8993.htm

(8) https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/diseases-conditions/ruptured-eardrum

(9) https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/acute-suppurative-otitis-media

(10) https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2013/1115/p694.html

(11) https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2001/0301/p927.html

(12) https://www.pennmedicine.org/for-patients-and-visitors/patient-information/conditions-treated-a-to-z/ear-infectionmiddle-ear

(13) https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/ear-infection

(14) https://www.benendenhospital.org.uk/health-news/ent/how-to-treat-inflammation-of-the-middle-ear/

(15) https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2007/1201/p1659.html

(16) https://www.childrenshospital.org/treatments/ear-tube

(17) https://www.childrenshospital.org/alliance/practices/framingham-pediatrics/common-health-topics/ear-infections

(18) https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180416142450.htm

(19) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29445883/

(20) https://health.gov/healthypeople/objectives-and-data/browse-objectives/sensory-or-communication-disorders/reduce-ear-infections-children-hoscd-04

(21) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9413688/

(22) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7234916/

(23) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9780156/

(24) https://www.rch.org.au/uploadedFiles/Main/Content/plastic/Cleft%20and%20hearing.pdf 

(25) https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002427.htm

(26) https://www.checkupnewsroom.com/can-my-child-swim-with-an-ear-infection/

(27) https://www.chop.edu/conditions-diseases/otitis-mediaeffusion-ome

(28) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0165587613004060

 

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