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Ear Infection Types

Ear infections are one of the most common reasons that parents take their kids to see a doctor. An ear infection is an inflammation of the middle ear, which can be from a virus or bacteria causing fluid buildup behind the eardrum. Anyone at any age can get an ear infection, but they are most often seen in children because a child's immune system is not as effective as an adult's.

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, there are three types of ear infections. Each infection has a different combination of symptoms.

Acute Otitis Media

Acute otitis media (AOM) is the most common type of ear infection. Parts of the middle ear are infected and swollen, and fluid is trapped behind the eardrum. This causes pain in the ear—commonly called an earache. Your child might also have a fever.

Otitis Media with Effusion

Otitis media with effusion (OME) sometimes happens after an ear infection has run its course and fluid stays trapped behind the eardrum. A child with OME may have no symptoms, but a doctor will be able to see the fluid behind the eardrum with a special instrument.

Chronic Otitis Media with Effusion

Chronic otitis media with effusion (COME) happens when fluid remains in the middle ear for a long time or returns repeatedly. COME makes it harder for children to fight new infections and can affect their hearing.

Some Things to Remember About Ear Infections…

  • If you think your child has an ear infection, take him/her to your family doctor.
  • Ear infections are often painful, and it is important to keep your sick child comfortable. You can alternate ibuprofen with tylenol every 4 hours to alleviate your child's pain. Your doctor or pharmacist can advise you on the right dose of pain relief medication for your child.
  • Most children outgrow ear infections and have undamaged ears and normal hearing. 

  • Ear Infections 101

    Boys Town Ear, Nose & Throat Institute


    When it comes to ear infections, it’s good to have a little bit of knowledge of the anatomy of the ears.


    Outer ear infections, those are the ones that are commonly called swimmer’s ear. In the summertime, acute onset of pain after you’ve been in a pool. That’s an outer ear infection and usually something you’re going to need to see the doctor for.


    Probably the one that we deal with more is the middle ear infections and that’s when the space behind the eardrum, basically the part we look in with an otoscope and say, yes there’s something going on there.


    That’s the space behind the eardrum and it also has the Eustachian tube, which is the plumbing. So, that’s an infection in the space behind your eardrum. That’s called otitis media. That’s the one we deal with the most when we talk about antibiotics and tubes.


    What are the symptoms of ear infections?


    Symptoms of ear infections, probably the most common one is ear pain. In a baby, they can’t tell you that, so tugging at an ear, fussy, not sleeping well, irritable. Those are all common signs.


    In babies especially, if they’re more fussy after they lie down, think about ears from that standpoint because ears tend to plug up a bit more when you lay down and it might bother them more when they’re actually ok when they’re up.


    Fever is another common sign, especially in little kids. Older kids, often times, do not get a fever. In older kids it might be more of a hearing loss or a lot of times they’ll have pain.


    Ear infections seems to be a rite of passage for kids. If your child hasn’t had an ear infection by the time they’re two, you’re probably in the lucky category.


    When should you see a doctor?


    You should see the doctor if there is any persistent pain. You can give your child, or you can take, a dose of Tylenol or Motrin and if that takes care of it and it doesn’t come back, then that’s probably something you don’t need to see the doctor for.


    If you do that Tylenol or Motrin and as soon as it wears off you have pain again, then you should see them.


    You should see the doctor for any severe pain, high temp that isn’t going away in a day or two. Basically, all the things you would take your child to the doctor for or what you would go to the doctor for in any case.


    What are the treatment options?


    Most commonly and again, we’re talking about otitis media, which is the infection behind the eardrum, usually for those you’re going to get an antibiotic and generally, you need to take some Tylenol and Motrin for the pain.

Ear, Nose and Throat



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