Otitis Media, Child

ExitCare ImageOtitis media is redness, soreness, and swelling (inflammation) of the middle ear. Otitis media may be caused by allergies or, most commonly, by infection. Often it occurs as a complication of the common cold.

Children younger than 7 years are more prone to otitis media. The size and position of the eustachian tubes are different in children of this age group. The eustachian tube drains fluid from the middle ear. The eustachian tubes of children younger than 7 years are shorter and are at a more horizontal angle than older children and adults. This angle makes it more difficult for fluid to drain. Therefore, sometimes fluid collects in the middle ear, making it easier for bacteria or viruses to build up and grow. Also, children at this age have not yet developed the the same resistance to viruses and bacteria as older children and adults.


Symptoms of otitis media may include:

  • Earache.

  • Fever.

  • Ringing in the ear.

  • Headache.

  • Leakage of fluid from the ear.

Children may pull on the affected ear. Infants and toddlers may be irritable.


ExitCare ImageIn order to diagnose otitis media, your child's ear will be examined with an otoscope. This is an instrument that allows your child's caregiver to see into the ear in order to examine the eardrum. The caregiver also will ask questions about your child's symptoms.


Typically, otitis media resolves on its own within 3 to 5 days. Your child's caregiver may prescribe medicine to ease symptoms of pain. If otitis media does not resolve within 3 days or is recurrent, your caregiver may prescribe antibiotic medicines if he or she suspects that a bacterial infection is the cause.


  • Make sure your child takes all medicines as directed, even if your child feels better after the first few days.

  • Make sure your child takes over-the-counter or prescription medicines for pain, discomfort, or fever only as directed by the caregiver.

  • Follow up with the caregiver as directed.


  • Your child is older than 3 months and has a fever and symptoms that persist for more than 72 hours.

  • Your child is 3 months old or younger and has a fever and symptoms that suddenly get worse.

  • Your child has a headache.

  • Your child has neck pain or a stiff neck.

  • Your child seems to have very little energy.

  • Your child has excessive diarrhea or vomiting.


  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.