Acute Otitis Media

What Is Acute Otitis Media?

Acute otitis media (AOM) is an infection of the middle ear. It is caused by a rapid build-up of fluid and infection behind the eardrum. AOM is a very common condition, especially among infants and young children. It is one of the most common causes of hearing loss in children, resulting in more than 95% of admissions to hospital each year.

What Are the Symptoms of Acute Otitis Media?

The most common symptoms of AOM include pain and irritability in the affected ear, fever, and decreased hearing. Other symptoms may include pressure in the ear, a yellow or green discharge from the ear, or a feeling that the ear is congested or blocked.

What Are the Causes of Acute Otitis Media?

AOM is most commonly caused by an upper respiratory tract infection, such as a cold or the flu. Bacteria or viruses can also enter the middle ear through the eustachian tube after swimming or taking a bath. The eustachian tube can also become blocked by colds or allergies, leading to the accumulation of fluid and eventually causing infection.

How Is Acute Otitis Media Diagnosed?

AOM is usually diagnosed based on the patient's symptoms and a physical examination of the ear. A doctor may also use an otoscope to examine the eardrum. If an outer ear infection is suspected, a sample of the fluid in the ear may be taken for laboratory testing.

How Is Acute Otitis Media Treated?

Treatment for AOM typically includes antibiotics to fight the infection and pain relievers to reduce discomfort. Generally, the infection will clear up within 2 or 3 days. In some cases, surgery may be required to remove any fluid or infected tissue from the middle ear.

Can Acute Otitis Media Be Prevented?

  • Have your child immunized
  • Keep your child away from large groups of people to avoid the spread of colds and flu viruses
  • Avoid smoking around your child, as it increases the risk of AOM
  • Take proper care of your child’s teeth and gums to reduce the risk of infection
  • Have your child’s hearing checked regularly