Otitis Media

General Illness Information

Common Name: Otitis Media

Medical Term: Otitis media

Description: An infection (viral or bacterial) of the lining of the middle ear. It is common in children and is usually secondary to an upper respiratory infection.


  • Viral or bacterial infection of the upper respiratory tract, usually spreading to the middle ear via the eustachian tube.
  • The causative micro-organism varies according to which ones are epidemic in any community at any given time.

Prevention: Treat all ear infections promptly.

Incidence is higher in households with smokers. Thus discourage smoking in the home.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Persistent, severe earache;
  • Hearing loss;
  • Fever;
  • Nausea and vomiting;
  • Diarrhea;
  • If ear drum perforation occurs, there is a purulent discharge;
  • Ear pulling or tugging in small children.

Risk Factors

  • Recent illness, such as a respiratory infection, that has lowered resistance.
  • Crowded or unsanitary living conditions.
  • Genetic factors. Some American Indians, especially the Navajo, seem more susceptible.
  • Children who had first attack before 6 months of age are more susceptible to repeated infections.

Diagnosis & Treatment

The diagnosis is made on history and examination.

General Measures:

  • Treatment usually involves medication and supportive care to relieve pain.
  • Application of gentle heat to the area around the ears may help to relieve pain.
  • Swimming should be avoided until infection clears
  • Surgery to insert plastic tubes through the eardrum to drain pus or fluid from the middle ear, or surgery to remove the adenoids.
  • If the eardrum is bulging, a small cut, or myringotomy, may be made in it to relieve pressure and pain.


  • Appropriate antibiotics will be prescribed, if the physician decides the infection is caused by bacteria.
  • Analgesics, such as acetaminophen, to control pain.
  • A follow up visit to the doctor may be necessary to ensure that the infection has cleared.


As tolerated. Children with otitis media usually like to rest until the infection is controlled and symptoms subside.


No dietary restrictions.

Possible Complications :

  • Mastoiditis.
  • Hearing loss
  • Meningitis.
  • Abscess of the brain, and its coverings.


Excellent, with proper treatment.


Nothing specified.

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