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I think my child has an ear infection...

28 March 2018

Infection in the middle ear space (Acute Otitis Media, AOM) is a common bacterial disease occurring in infants and children. All children are likely to experience one episode, with one third of children experiencing two plus episodes in their first three years of life. Children aged three to seven years are most commonly affected.

What are the symptoms of an ear infection?
Ear infections cause pain, reduced hearing and fever. Sometimes the eardrum will perforate and pus will leak out of the ear (otorrhoea). In rare occasions, an ear infection can cause dizziness and weakness of the muscles, moving some or all of the muscles in the face (facial nerve palsy).

When do you need to treat an ear infection?
Ear infections in children can often be managed without antibiotic treatment, providing they are seen to be improving over two to three days. Simple pain relief, like paracetamol or ibuprofen, can help to reduce pain and fever. Severe cases, those with leakage of pus (otorrhoea) and when both ears are infected in children under two years of age, require antibiotic treatment.

How are ear infections treated?
Antibiotics are usually prescribed by GPs in liquid form to be taken like other medicines for children. Ear, Nose and Throat Consultants favour giving antibiotic ear drops, delivering antibiotics directly to the site of the infection. If a child is having regular or persistent ear infections, then it is necessary to check that the eardrum is normal and in some cases to ensure that ‘booster’ vaccinations are not needed.

Grommets (ventilation tubes) are advised if the ear infections are very regular or severe. A grommet looks like a very small cotton reel that is placed in a small cut in the eardrum to improve the ventilation of the middle ear space, helping to prevent ear infections and/or glue ear. Grommets are temporary, typically staying in the eardrum for six to 15 months.

Serious complications of AOM are very rare, but the infection can occasionally spread to the bone behind the ear, pushing the ear outwards (mastoiditis) and in extreme occasions, spread inside the skull (intracranial sepsis).


Written by Professor Iain Bruce, Consultant Paediatric Otolaryngologist.

For more information or to book an appointment with Professor Iain Bruce, please contact 0161 447 6700 or email info@spiremanchester.com

The content of this article is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the professional medical advice of your doctor or other health care professional.

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