Anatomy of Infection
The ear is made up of three sections: the outer ear, middle ear and inner ear. Each of these areas is susceptible to infections, which can be painful. Young children have a greater tendency to get earaches. The middle ear is more susceptible to get infected in this age group due to the more frequent upper respiratory and viral infections experienced by young children. These infections cause nasal congestion and thick mucus production which contributes to middle ear infections.  Usually the ear pain that is caused by viral infection resolves in a matter of days with conservative over the counter cold and flu medicines. If ear complaints persist beyond one week it is best to get a physical examination to determine the type of infection, prevent it from spreading, and obtain treatment to help alleviate the pain.

Middle Ear Infection (Otitis Media)

Middle ear infections can be caused by either bacterial or viral infections like the common cold. The middle ear is more susceptible to get infected in this age group due to the more frequent upper respiratory and viral infections experienced by young children. Many young children are in daycare settings and are exposed to many types of viruses from close proximity with other infected children in that environment. These infections cause nasal congestion and thick mucus production which contributes to middle ear infections. Most middle ear infections caused by viruses will resolve without the need for antibiotics. 

Middle ear infections may also be triggered by airborne or foodborne allergies, infections elsewhere in the body, nutritional deficiencies, or a blocked Eustachian tube. The eustachian tube is a narrow hollow tube located in the posterior nasal cavity on each side of the nose. It opens when we swallow and equalizes the pressure in the middle ear with the outside air. If excess negative pressure builds in the middle ear space, then fluid will accumulate within the middle ear space which leads to infection and hearing loss. If unresolved, a thick, glue-like fluid can accumulate and become a bacterial infection that causes swelling, severe ear pressure, and pain. If untreated, the middle ear infection may rupture the ear drum and cause bleeding or purulent discharge from the middle ear.

Treatment Options
Effective treatment is based on the cause of the middle ear infection and ranges from analgesic eardrops, decongestant medications, age appropriate oral or injectible antibiotics, to the surgical insertion of small  ventilation or pressure equalization (PE) tubes into the eardrum. Children with persistent ear or reoccuring infections may undergo one or more outpatient ear tube surgeries before six years of age. The ear tube is placed to allow normal aeration of the middle ear space and equalize the pressure behind the eardrum with the outside air. These tubes are of many different shapes and materials. They are designed for short or long term retention based on the age of the patient and the history and severity of infection. The ventilation tubes also allow for drainage and aspiration of fluid from the middle ear. Sometimes a surgical procedure is performed at the time of ear tube placement to remove enlarged lymphoid tissue (adenoids) that obstructs the openings of the eustachian tubes in the back of the nose. This surgery is called an adenoidectomy.

If you suspect you or your child may have an ear infection, please contact our office and schedule an appointment with Dr. Sciacca.

For more information about ear tubes

4501 Southlake Pkwy
Suite #200
Hoover, AL 35244