Middle ear infection

Fast facts about middle ear infection (Otitis Media) in children

  • Children are more likely to get ear infections than adults53
  • Babies who drink from a bottle, especially when lying down, tend to have more ear infections than babies who are breast fed53
  • Pain is caused by fluid that builds up in the middle ear53
  • Over-the-counter analgesics that contain paracetamol and/or ibuprofen may help to ease the pain54

If your child has ear ache, then it's more than likely due to a middle ear infection.53 The infection happens when a virus or bacteria infects the air-space behind the eardrum.53 It becomes painful because of the inflammation and build-up of fluids in this space.53

Common signs of a middle ear infection include:53

  • Ear pain, especially when lying down
  • Irritability and crying
  • Tugging or pulling at the ear
  • Fever of 38°C or higher
  • Drainage of fluid from the ear
  • Headache
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty hearing normal sounds
  • Loss of balance

Helping your child at home

Because middle ear infections often clear up on their own, treatment may begin with managing pain and monitoring the problem.53 Hold a warm (but not hot) water bottle or cloth on the painful ear.54 Ask your doctor to prescribe pain-relieving eardrops to help relieve the symptoms.54 Ear infection in infants and severe cases in general often require antibiotic medications.53

Would an analgesic be of value?

Yes, ask your doctor or pharmacist for an over-the-counter analgesic that contains paracetamol and/or ibuprofen for relief of pain, inflammation and fever.54 Follow the dose recommendation for your child’s age.

When to contact a doctor

A doctor can help you with prompt treatment of the infection to avoid long-term complications. Consult a doctor if:53

  • The pain is severe
  • Your child is younger than 6 months
  • Symptoms last longer than a day
  • There is a discharge of fluid from the ear
  • Your child is sleepless or irritable after a cold or another upper respiratory tract infection

Frequently asked questions