Middle Ear Infection

(Acute Otitis; Ear Infection, Middle; Otitis Media)

Definition

With this condition, the middle ear becomes infected and inflamed. The middle ear is located behind the eardrum.
The Middle Ear
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Causes

In most cases, middle ear infections are caused by viruses. In other cases, specific bacteria may be the cause.

Risk Factors

Middle ear infections are more common in infants and toddlers. They occur more often during the winter months. Other factors that may increase your chance of developing middle ear infection include:
  • Recent viral infection, such as a cold or the flu
  • Recent sinusitis
  • Attendance at day care
  • Exposure to second hand smoke, usually cigarette smoke, but also from cooking and wood-heating
  • Babies who are formula-fed
  • Medical conditions that cause abnormalities of the eustachian tubes, such as cleft palate or Down syndrome
  • History of allergies, such as environmental or food allergies
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Babies whose mothers drank alcohol while pregnant
  • Pacifier use

Symptoms

A middle ear infection may cause:
  • Ear pain (babies may tug or rub at the ear or face)
  • Fever
  • Irritability
  • Hearing loss (may be only temporary, due to fluid accumulation)
  • Decreased appetite, difficulty feeding
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Drainage from ear
  • Difficulty with balance

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