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One Of The Most Common Infections Of Childhood: Otitis Media

A doctor examining the inside of a young girl's ear while her mother looks on.Ear infections are the bane of childhood and can spoil many outdoor adventures. One of the most common infections of childhood, they provoke long nights of miserable children, sleepless parents, and unhappiness all around. They may be recurrent, and can also progress (rarely) to more serious medical problems, such as meningitis.

What Are Ear Infections?

Acute otitis (inflammation of the ear) media (“middle”) infection is caused by bacteria or viruses. When it occurs, there is redness and inflammation of the eardrum, frequently with a collection of  blood, serum, or pus behind the drum. To know whether or not this has occurred, and to precisely determine the anatomic diagnosis and severity, one needs to see the eardrum, which is what the healthcare provider does with an otoscope.

With otitis media (middle ear infection), there is no drainage from the external ear canal (unless the eardrum ruptures, which is unusual in an adult and more common in a child) and the victim has a fever, sometimes with an accompanying sore throat. In many cases, the victim has a history of prior similar ear infections. Most often, otitis media occurs in children; when it occurs in an adult, it may be associated with a sinus infection or functional obstruction of the eustachian tube (the pressure-release mechanism from the middle ear into the throat).

It is interesting to note that children who chew Read more »

This post, One Of The Most Common Infections Of Childhood: Otitis Media, was originally published on by Paul Auerbach, M.D..

A Promising New Treatment For Blocked Ears

Eustachian tube dysfunction is a phenomenon whereby a person is unable to pop their ears to relieve symptoms of ear pressure, clogging, or fullness. It is much akin to the ear pressure a person experiences when flying, but at ground level. Traditionally, treatment of this condition involved medications like steroid nasal sprays and prednisone along with active valsalva. Once medical treatment has failed, ear tube placement has been the step of last resort.

However, a promising new treatment called eustachian tube balloon dilation has been described in March 2011 to address eustachian tube dysfunction at the source surgically rather than indirectly with tube placement across the eardrum. In essence, a balloon is inserted into the eustachian tube and than inflated thereby opening it up (the balloon is “popping” the ear for you). The balloon is than deflated and removed. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Fauquier ENT Blog*

Kids, Upper Respiratory Viruses, And Ear Infections

According to a new study published this month, more than 20 percent of young children with colds or other upper respiratory viruses will develop middle ear infections.

This finding isn’t that surprising. Eear symptoms along with a viral upper respiratory infection (URI) are common, including ear fullness and difficulty popping the ear. Although adults tend to be able to keep their ears clear by swallowing, chewing gum, yawning, or ear popping, most kids don’t know what to do when their ears feel full.

Whether in adults or kids, when the ears don’t ventilate or clear properly it can lead to ear problems including fluid buildup and middel ear infection. Why does this occur?

With a viral URI the lining of the nose swells, leading to symptoms of runny nose, nasal congestion, and sometimes nasal obstruction. This swelling doesn’t just occur in the nose, but also in the eustachian tube, which connects the back of the nose to the middle ear. When the ear “pops,” the eustachian tube opens to allow pressure and fluid to drain from the ear into the back of the nose. This is why yawning, swallowing, or noseblowing can cause an ear to pop normally.

When the lining in the eustachian tube swells up, the tube becomes blocked and prevents the ear from popping, leading to symptoms of ear pressure and fullness, fluid buildup, clogging, and often ear infections.

Read more about eustachian tube dysfunction here.


Clinical Spectrum of Acute Otitis Media Complicating Upper Respiratory Tract Viral Infection.” Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal. February 2011, volume 30, issue 2, pp 95-99.

*This blog post was originally published at Fauquier ENT Blog*

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