Otitis media

Otitis media is an ear infection of the middle ear, the area just behind the eardrum. It happens when the eustachian tubes, which connect the middle ear to the nose, get blocked with fluid. Mucus, pus, and bacteria can also pool behind the eardrum, causing pressure and pain.

Ear infections usually start with a cold. Although adults can get ear infections, they are most common in infants and young children. That's because a child's eustachian tubes are narrower and shorter than an adults', and it is easier for fluid to get trapped in the middle ear. In fact, 75% of all children get ear infections. They happen most often between the ages of 6 to 11 months. By age 1, 60% of children will have had at least one ear infection and 17% will have 3 or more.

Ear infections usually clear up on their own. Although it used to be common for doctors to give antibiotics to children with ear infections, now guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) suggest taking a wait-and-see approach for the first 72 hours.

With a severe ear infection, pressure may build up and cause the eardrum to rupture. Pus and blood may drain out. This usually relieves pain and pressure, and in most cases the eardrum heals on its own.

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Review Date: 2/3/2016  

Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

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