What is otitis?

Otitis is also known as an ear infection and occurs when there is a bacterial or viral infection within the ear. Ear infections can be acute, lasting a short duration, or chronic with frequent occurrence. Otitis can affect the internal or external parts of the ear. Ear infections are common in children.

These are the different types of otitis:

  • Otitis externa – also known as a swimmer's ear, it affects the external ear, specifically the ear canal.
  • Otitis media – also known as a middle ear infection, with inflammation forming behind the eardrum.
  • Acute otitis media – usually painful, but occurs suddenly and lasts a brief period.
  • Chronic ear infection – when the infection does not disappear or it keeps recurring.
  • Otitis media with effusion (OME) – following an infection, mucous or fluid continues to build-up in the middle ear, making the ear feel “full”, affecting hearing.

What are the symptoms of otitis?

The most frequent symptoms of otitis are:

  • Earache
  • Fever
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Vertigo (loss of balance)
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Yellow, clear discharge from the ears
  • Loss of appetite

What causes otitis?

Common causes of otitis are:

  • If the Eustachian tube becomes blocked or swollen, causing fluid to build-up
  • Infection of the upper respiratory tract that spreads to the ears
  • Allergies (allergic otitis)
  • Sinus infections
  • Exposure to moisture causes Swimmer’s ear
  • Changes in air pressure
  • Adenoid infection

Can otitis be prevented?

There are a few preventative measures that can be taken to avoid ear infections, including:

  • Towel drying your ears after bathing
  • When swimming use a swimming cap and earplugs
  • Prevent any foreign objects entering your ears (e.g. cotton buds)
  • Wash your and your child’s hands often
  • Ensure your child’s vaccines are up-to-date
  • Avoid smoky environments
  • Feed your child upright, rather than on their back

What is the treatment for otitis?

Mild ear infections will usually go away without intervention, and relieving symptoms with painkillers and warm cloths to the ear will suffice. If the infection is more severe, antibiotic medicine or eardrops can be prescribed.

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