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A common consequence of the common cold in children: middle ear infection

Last Updated on 24. June 2023 by eschalch

Causes, symptoms, diagnosis of otitis media, forms of treatment, possible complications.

The middle ear is an air-filled cavity located between the eardrum and the inner ear. The so-called eustachian tube connects the middle ear with the nasopharynx. Infections from the nose and nasopharynx often enter the middle ear via the Eustachian tube. The mucosa in the Eustachian tube swells and closes it. This allows the pathogens to multiply in the middle ear. Otitis media occurs primarily in children, most commonly affecting children up to school age. The most common causes are colds and, in children, enlarged and inflamed tonsils.

What are the symptoms?

  • Affected persons experience stabbing pain and/or a feeling of pressure in the ear.
  • They can hear poorly, as if they had a cotton ball in their ear.
  • Possible headache.
  • Vomiting, diarrhea and fever may occur, especially in children.
  • When the eardrum ruptures, pus flows out.

Who is particularly at risk?

  • Children in general, for the reasons stated above.
  • Patients whose adenoids are enlarged or who suffer from chronic sinusitis.
  • Patients who have had a history of middle ear infections.

How is the diagnosis made?

The physician can look into the ear using an ear funnel with a light source and magnifying glass or a forehead reflector with an ear funnel. A bulging of the eardrum indicates that fluid has accumulated and that the pressure in the ear is increased. It is also interesting for the doctor to know whether the patients frequently suffer from ear infections or whether they have a cold. He will usually do a hearing test. He may also check for eardrum mobility to detect what is called a tympanic effusion.

How is otitis media treated?

Nasal drops should be given as the very first measure. They cause the swelling of the mucous membranes to decrease and the eustachian tube to open again. Patients should also sleep on their side, if possible, with the diseased ear facing upwards, so that pus and fluid can drain away more easily. However, if a bacterial infection has developed, sometimes even antibiotics are necessary.

If the middle ear infection keeps recurring, a small tube is inserted into the eardrum. This allows the fluid to drain and the middle ear is sufficiently ventilated. Sometimes it may be necessary to remove the adenoids. If the ear is treated appropriately, the chances of recovery are very good.

What complications can occur if treatment is not given?

  • The inner ear and organ of balance can also become inflamed.
  • The inner ear may even be damaged.
  • The adjacent cavities may also become inflamed, the ear is sensitive to pressure and reddened, and the area behind the ear is so swollen that the pinna protrudes.
  • Frequent middle ear infections can potentially lead to permanent hearing loss.
  • A chronic middle ear infection may develop.