Otitis Media: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment


Otitis Media is an infection that occurs predominantly in the middle ear, behind the eardrum. This condition occurs mostly in children and toddlers and is quite common, with over 10 million cases diagnosed annually in India. This infection is not a dangerous one and is treated quite easily. Parents need not be anxious when their child comes down with an ear infection. However, they should certainly know about the common otitis media symptoms so that they can get their children the care they need.

Otitis Media

Otitis Media – The Symptoms to Watch Out For:

Some of the common otitis media symptoms to occur in toddlers and children include:

  • Irritability
  • Fever
  • Diarrhoea
  • Fullness in the ear
  • Fluid drainage from the ear
  • Sleeplessness
  • Vomiting
  • Pulling on the ears (and then wincing in pain)
  • Crying
  • Neck pain
  • Ear pain
  • Headache
  • Hearing loss
  • Lack of balance

Causes of Otitis Media:

Otitis Media Causes

To understand otitis media causes, you must understand exactly where this infection occurs. The eustachian tube is a canal that reaches from the back of the throat to the middle of the ear. When this tube swells up due to fluid, then infection can develop. As this tube tends to be a bit shorter in children than in adults, they are more likely to suffer from the infection. Some of the reasons why this infection occurs include:

  • A cold
  • Allergies
  • The flu
  • Exposure to cigarette smoke
  • Sinus infections
  • Enlarged or infected adenoids
  • Drinking milk while lying down (this is one of the main otitis media causes in infants).

Who is at a Risk of Suffering from Otitis Media?

Children and toddlers are the most at-risk for developing otitis media, meaning parents of small children need to be aware that their child is prone to this infection. However, certain children are more at-risk than others. This includes children who are:

  • Between the ages of 6 months to 36 months
  • Attending day care
  • Using pacifiers for soothing
  • Exposed to cigarettes and their smoke
  • Drinking while lying down
  • Bottle fed instead of breastfed
  • Living in very polluted cities
  • Living in an area that has cold climate
  • Suffering from a cold or flu

How is Otitis Media Diagnosed?

A doctor uses an otoscope to look inside the ear of the child to identify any signs of otitis media. These visible otitis media symptoms can include pus, perforation in the ear drums, blood, air bubbles, swelling, redness, and fluid present in the middle ear.

Conversely, a doctor may also use a tympanometry in order to check the child’s air pressure within the ears. Similarly, a doctor can also use a reflectometry, which is an instrument that is used to make a sound near the child’s ear to determine whether there is fluid trapped inside.

If the child ends up experiencing hearing loss, then the doctor will also conduct a hearing test.

How is this Infection Treated?

The doctor will prescribe specific otitis media antibiotics in order to clear out the infection and relieve your child of pain. However, if the ear infections are recurring in nature, and the antibiotics don’t help, then the doctor may recommend surgery.

Before resorting to antibiotics, though, parents can consider otitis media management at home. Certain home remedies can help your child tremendously. These include the following:

  • Apply a warm washcloth that is moist to the infected ear
  • You can use OTC ear drops to help clear out the infection
  • You can also give your child a few OTC painkillers that are not too strong
  • Adding drops of brandy to the ear is a common home remedy too

How to Prevent This Infection?

Your child is bound to have ear infections, especially when very young. In order to prevent this from happening too often, you can do the following:

  • Avoid giving your child pacifiers for soothing
  • Ensure your child get regular vaccines, including seasonal ones recommended by your doctor
  • Breastfeed your child instead of relying on a bottle
  • Do not expose your child to cigarette smoke


Otitis media symptoms can be challenging to spot in infants, however increased fussiness and crying intensely are two red flags that should prompt you to see your paediatrician sooner rather later. An ear infection can be very painful, which is why it is best to take your child to the doctor if you are not sure why your child is crying so much.

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