Acute otitis media is a condition characterized by inflammation of the area behind the eardrum due to infection. This article talks about the management of acute otitis media in children.
The human ear is usually divided into three parts,
The middle ear, also called a tympanum or tympanic cavity, is an air-filled region. It is connected to the oropharynx by the eustachian tube and with the mastoid cavity by the mastoid antrum. A middle ear infection, also called otitis media, occurs when a virus or bacteria causes the area behind the eardrum to become inflamed.
This condition is more common in children. According to a study, a middle ear infection can occur in 80 percent of children nearing 3 years of age.
The two types of middle ear infections are:
Acute otitis media (AOM).
Otitis media with effusion (OME).
Otitis media is nothing but the inflammation of the middle ear cavity with or without inflammation in the mastoid cavity. Otitis media can be bacterial or viral. Acute otitis media (AOM), also called suppurative otitis media, is a middle ear infection. Children are often brought to the physician’s office seeking immediate medical care.
Several reasons why children are more prone to middle ear infections include,
Previous respiratory tract infection that has spread to the ears.
Adenoid infection or enlargement
Blockage in the tube that connects the middle ear to the pharynx (eustachian tube), leading to collection of fluids behind the eardrum.
Common cold or flu.
Bacterial growth in the fluid. The most common bacteria causing AOM are S. pneumoniae, non-typeable H. influenzae, and M. catarrhalis.
Symptoms of acute otitis media in children are:
Inability to sleep.
Nausea and vomiting.
Problems with hearing.
Pulling the ear.
Temporary hearing loss.
Clear, yellow, or bloody discharge from the ears.
Loss of balance.
Otitis media is commonly seen in children than adults because the eustachian tube is shorter and more horizontal than in adults. These anatomical features cause the infection to spread more easily from the oropharynx to the middle ear cavity.
Otitis media is a common childhood illness. It occurs most commonly in children aged between 6 and 18 months but is expected until 4 years of age. It has been predicted that about 75% of children would have had otitis media at least once after starting school.
In children over 3 years, the diagnosis of diseased ear is easy as the child can talk and describe the illness. Also, endoscopic ear examination is possible, which reveals middle ear inflammation. But, in children below 3 years, the diagnosis is difficult as the child cannot describe the illness. The child just cries loudly and sometimes hits his diseased ear with his palm.
In children below 3 years, diagnosis of otitis media can be missed by the physician. The sickness may be misdiagnosed as gastroenteritis because otitis media in this age presents with fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. Here, the endoscopic ear examination is helpful to confirm middle ear infections.
The treatment options for acute otitis media in children are classified according to the stage of the disease, whether with or without suppuration. Suppuration is the collection of pus behind the eardrum. Acute otitis media without suppuration is treated with antibiotics, mucolytics, vasoconstrictor nasal drops, and analgesics and if suppuration is present, the treatment is mainly surgical. Myringotomy is mandatory to drain the collected pus from behind the eardrum, and prophylactic treatment is prescribed.
Regarding recurrent acute otitis media, it should exclude surgical causes such as enlarged adenoid tissue. Ventilation tubes can be introduced through the eardrum for adequate middle ear ventilation.
Your child's surgeon may also suggest the removal of the adenoids if they are infected.
The first drug of choice for otitis media is Amoxicillin, and the effective second-line drugs for resistant beta-lactamase-producing bacterial strains include:
While choosing an antibiotic, the physician should consider the efficacy, cost, side effect, age of the child, compliance issues, and spectrum of coverage. Children with recurrent infections can be treated with antibiotic prophylaxis. About 10 percent of children with episodes of acute otitis media develop a chronic middle ear effusion that persists beyond three months.
Without antibiotic treatment, acute otitis media (AOM) symptoms can improve in 24 hours in about 60% of children, and it will settle immediately within three days in 80% of children. Serious complications of AOM include meningitis, acute mastoiditis, and, rarely, intracranial complications. If antibiotics are delayed, acute mastoiditis can occur in about 1 to 2 per 10,000 children.
Exposure to group daycare.
Upper respiratory infections.
Family history of recurrent acute otitis media.
Exposure to environmental smoke or any respiratory irritants.
Influenza vaccine and pneumococcal vaccine can reduce the risk of upper respiratory tract infection, reducing the incidence of otitis media-related infection.
Avoid tobacco smoking.
Breastfed infants have reduced risk as compared to bottle fed infants.
If not treated, they may lead to:
Hearing loss if the tympanic membrane is ruptured.
Otitic meningitis if the infection spreads to the meninges (membrane of the brain).
Dural sinus thrombosis: Presence of a clot in the dural venous sinuses.
Tympanic membrane rupture due to the accumulation of pus.
Last reviewed at:
11 Sep 2021 - 4 min read
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