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There are different types of ear infections in children that parents should know and understand. Mild cases of ear infections are usually easy to treat but if these are ignored and not given immediate medical attention, they could lead to complications that make the condition much more difficult to cure. Here are the most common ear infections to watch out for:
Otitis media is the infection of the inner ear. It is common in childhood and often preceded by another type of infection such as a cold, cough or sore throat. Bacteria or viruses can sometimes travel from the nose, throat or mouth and enter the middle ear where they cause inflammation.
There are two types of otitis media: acute otitis media and chronic otitis media. Acute otitis media generally begins rapidly but is short in duration. Fluid accumulates in the middle ear, causing bulging in the eardrum, which is painful. If the eardrum becomes perforated, pus may also be present.
Chronic otitis media, on the other hand, is persistent and prolonged middle ear infection that usually lasts for a month. Even after the infection has resolved, fluid may still be present in the ear for as long as 3 months. As such, the condition must be checked and monitored by a doctor to ensure that the ear is healing as it should. Otitis media usually resolves on its own even without treatment, although chronic infection has to be checked by a medical professional in order to rule out possible complications.
Mastoiditis is the inflammation of the mastoid process (the bone found behind each ear) because of the presence of bacteria. The infection is usually caused by complications due to untreated otitis media. Mastoiditis can lead to serious problems such as deafness, meningitis, brain injury, blood poisoning and even death if not treated immediately.
Otitis externa is the infection of the ear canal and the outer ear. It usually occurs after fluid (usually water) enters the ear. If the fluid is not drained, any bacteria it contains could thrive in the warm environment inside the ear. This condition usually occurs after swimming, which means it is fairly common during or after the summer months. Treatment usually consists of using medicated ear drops to fight the infection and keeping the infected ear dry.
Ear infections are quite common in children especially after a bout with the flu or a cold. However, just because a child shows discomfort and complains of pain does not automatically mean that his condition is caused by an ear infection. There are other issues that may cause the problem. To ensure proper diagnosis and correct treatment, seek the opinion of an ENT doctor who specializes in problems with the ears, nose and throat.