Ear Infection Facts

Otitis media is inflammation located in the middle ear. It can occur as a result of a cold, sore throat, or respiratory infection. Learn more about ear infections ›

Symptoms: Middle Ear Infection

  • Acute otitis media usually follows a viral upper respiratory tract infection, such as a cold or flu.

  • Chronic otitis media is an ongoing middle ear infection that can occur after acute otitis media or because of a poorly healed ruptured eardrum.

  • A feeling of fullness in the ear

  • Chills

  • Drainage of pus and blood from the ear canal followed by relief from pain, which indicates that the eardrum has ruptured

  • Ear pain

  • Fever

  • Hearing loss

  • Irritability, fussiness, poor feeding, and poor sleeping in infants and young children

  • Tugging or rubbing at the ear in infants and young children

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Treatment For Ear Infections

Earaches are common during childhood, but a vaccine can ease the pain for thousands of kids.

Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, marketed under the brand name Prevnar, was approved by the FDA in 2000. An improved form of the vaccine, Prevnar 13, was approved in 2010.

Prevnar 13 targets the most common strains of pneumococcus, one of the bacteria that causes ear infections, but that also cause many cases of serious illness in infants, such as pneumonia, bacteremia (a blood infection), and meningitis (an infection of the lining of the brain and spinal column). Studies suggest that Prevnar 13 will prevent most—about 80 percent—of these serious infections in children under 5 years old, although it does not prevent all ear infections.

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Living with Ear Infections

Most children have had at least one middle ear infection by the age of 2. Treatment may depend on whether the problem is acute or chronic, as well as how often it comes back and how long it lasts. For many children, reducing risk factors and taking antibiotics are all the treatment that’s needed.

Some behaviors or surroundings increase your child’s risk of ear infection. Reducing such risk factors can be helpful at any point in treatment. The tips below may help.

  • If your child goes to group daycare, he or she runs a greater risk of getting colds or flu. Help prevent these illnesses by teaching your child to wash his or her hands often.

  • If your child has nasal allergies, do your best to control dust, mold, mildew, and pet hair in the house. Also stop or greatly limit your child’s contact with secondhand smoke.

  • If food allergies are a problem, identify the food that triggers the reaction and help your child avoid it. In some children, eating or drinking dairy products causes tissues around the eustachian tube to swell. This may make a blockage more likely.

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Your Guide to Ear Infections

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