Advice intended for parents/carers taking their child home after seeing a healthcare professional
The middle ear is the small space behind the eardrum; this space is usually filled with air. Otitis media is an infection of the middle ear that causes inflammation and a build up of fluid, which can then become infected by bacteria or viruses. It is often extremely painful.
In most cases, the symptoms of a middle ear infection develop quickly and resolve in a few days. In some cases, pus may run out of the ear, this is the fluid that had built up behind the ear drum causing a small hole in eardrum, this tends to resolve with no intervention required.
The Eustachian tube is a small tube that links the middle ear to the back of the throat. It's main job is to regulate air pressure in the ear. Its other function is to drain any fluid or mucus that builds up. The common 'cold' can cause the Eustachian to become blocked, causing a build up of fluid or mucus.
If your child has any of the following:
Develops double vision or blurred vision
Go to the nearest Hospital Emergency (A&E) Department or phone 999
If none of the above features are present
Continue providing your child’s care at home. If you are still concerned about your child, call NHS 111 – dial 111
Most middle ear infections are caused by viral infections and resolve with 3-5 days without treatment. Paracetamol or Ibuprofen can help ease the pain caused by the build up of fluid.
Antibiotics are usually considered if your child:
Treatment with intravenous antibiotics (given into a vein) is occasionally considered for extremely severe cases.
Some children who need intravenous antibiotics are admitted to hospital initially whilst the majority can be looked after at home. These children would come into hospital once a day for someone to look at them and for their antibiotics to be given.
The decision on when to change from intravenous to oral antibiotics (tablets or liquid) will be made by the medical team caring for your child. This will depends on how quickly your child responds to treatment (improvement in fever, pain and sometimes their blood tests) and whether your child has other health conditions. Antibiotics are usually given for a total of 5 days. You can give regular pain relief (Paracetamol or Ibuprofen) until any discomfort his improved.
Most children recover without any complications. Complications of middle ear infections are rare, but can be serious if they do occur. Most complications are due to the infection spreading to another part of the ear or head, including:
If you are concerned that your child's condition is getting worse (see table above), you should contact your discharging ward.
Call 999 for ambulance if you have serious concerns for your child.
It is not possible to prevent ear infections; however, you can do things that may reduce your child's chances of developing the condition.