Otitis Media In Children – Causes And Treatments

It is the children’s disease par excellence: 920,000 cases of otitis media are treated in Germany every year. Unlike ten years ago, doctors today only prescribe antibiotics with caution.

Why Do Children In Particular Often Get Middle Ear Infections?

Children are generally more susceptible to ear, nose and throat infections for two reasons. First, their immune system is not yet as mature as that of an adult. It simply does not know many pathogens yet. Middle ear infections, medically known as “otitis media,” can be triggered by a wide variety of bacteria and viruses. On the other hand, in children the passages and canals in the throat-ear area are as small as they are. If the passages swell up from time to time, especially during a cold, fluid accumulates in the middle ear and behind the eardrum, which cannot drain through the pharyngeal canal – an ideal breeding ground for pathogens. And once a virus is circulating, the children infect each other. In kindergarten or after-school care, they have much more daily contact and touch with others than adults. Incidentally, children from smoker households are more often affected, as their defenses have been shown to be weakened by passive smoking.

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What Are The Alarming Symptoms?

The main symptom of otitis media is clearly earache. The little ones whine, cry and are restless. It is also often noticed that the child hears worse in one or both ears. The earache stems from the pressure of the buildup against the eardrum. If the pressure inside is too great, the eardrum ruptures and the ear “runs.” Even if this relieves it and the pain is suddenly gone, the condition is acute. A fever, especially above 38.5 degrees, indicates that inflammation is festering in the body. With a feverish child who is in pain, parents should definitely see a doctor.

What Can Parents Do At Home If Necessary?

For the pain, they can give the little patient a suitable painkiller, for example ibuprofen. It does not matter what caused the middle ear infection. Decongestants such as nasal drops and expectorants also almost always bring relief. A tried-and-tested suggestion from the field is the onion poultice: cut open an onion, wrap it in a cloth handkerchief, place it on the ear and fix it with a headband. After 15 to 20 minutes, the pain usually subsides.

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What Can Be The Cause Of A Middle Ear Infection?

The starting point is almost always a viral infection: one child gets a cold from it, the next a severe cough, and in the third child it develops into otitis media. A purely viral middle ear infection in the course of a cold runs more easily and usually heals on its own within a few days. In many cases, however, bacteria come into play and multiply rapidly in the accumulation of fluid and mucus in the middle ear. These mixed infections lead to painful, purulent inflammation.

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