Ear Infections and Your Child
Next to the common cold, an ear infection is the most common childhood illness. In fact, most children have at least one ear infection by the time they are 3 years old. Most of the time, ear infections clear up without causing any lasting problems.
In order to understand how ear infections occur, it’s helpful to know how our ears work. The ear has three parts — the outer ear, middle ear and inner ear. A small tube (eustachian tube) connects the middle ear to the back of the nose. When a child has a cold, nose or throat infection, or allergy, the eustachian tube can become blocked, causing a buildup of fluid in the middle ear. If bacteria or a virus infects this fluid, it can cause swelling and pain in the ear. This type of ear infection is called acute otitis media.
Often after the symptoms of acute otitis media clear up, fluid remains in the ear. Acute otitis media then develops into another kind of ear problem called otitis media with effusion (middle ear fluid). This condition is harder to detect than acute otitis media because except for the fluid and usually some mild hearing loss, there are often no other noticeable symptoms. This fluid may last several months and, in most cases, disappears on its own. Hearing then returns to normal.
Your child may have many symptoms during an ear infection. Talk with your pediatrician about the best way to treat your child’s symptoms.