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Ear infections are also called otitis media. They are very common, especially in children between 6 months and 3 years of age, are usually not serious and are not contagious.
Viruses or bacteria (germs) cause middle ear infections. The eustachian tube connects the middle ear with the back of the throat. Germs can travel from the back of the throat when the eustachian tube is not working well, causing middle ear infections.
Older children will complain of an earache. Younger ones might not say they have an earache, but might:
Some children have fluid draining from their ear. This fluid could contain germs. The best way to prevent the spread of these germs is to wash your hands well.
Doctors diagnose ear infections by looking at the ear drum (tympanic membrane) with a special light called an otoscope.
Children usually feel better within 1 day of starting an antibiotic. Use antibiotics only as directed. Keep giving them until they are finished, even if your child feels better. Your doctor might want to see your child again to be sure the infection has cleared up completely.
If your child has frequent ear infections, or if he or she has trouble hearing because of fluid in the middle ear, an ear, nose and throat surgeon might need to insert a tube through the ear drum and into the middle ear. The tube helps to keep air pressure normal on both sides of the ear drum and helps any fluid to drain.
Putting tubes in requires a short operation. Children don’t usually have to stay in the hospital overnight.
Call your doctor if you think your child has an ear infection and:
This information should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your physician.
All Canadian Paediatric Society documents are reviewed, revised or retired as needed on a regular basis.
Please consult the Caring for Kids Web site (www.caringforkids.cps.ca) for the most current version.
May be reproduced without permission and shared with patients and their families.