Q&A: Otitis Media: What parents Need to Know

According to a study done at the University of Michigan, by the age of three, 80% of children will have had acute Otitis Media (The inflammation of the middle ear) with its peak of incidence between the ages of 6 – 12 months. My eldest son was among the children who had it so frequently, that we had to do the operation for him. Not only did it relieve him from his frequent Otitis, but it also ended his long periods of pain.

Dr. Randa Barazi explained everything a parent needs to know about Otitis Media.


1- Can you briefly describe your background?
“I am a pediatric otolaryngologist head and neck surgeon. I received my undergraduate and medical degree from the American University of Beirut then completed my residency in Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery at the American University of Beirut Medical Center. Then, I completed a fellowship in Pediatric Otolaryngology Head and Neck surgery at the Children’s Hospital Of Michigan at Wayne State University in the United States before joining the faculty at the American University of Beirut.”


2- What is the cause of Otitis Media for children? Why are children affected by Otitis Media more than adults?
“The cause/risk factors of Otitis Media in children is multi-factorial: Genetic predisposition, immature immunity, day care attendance, prematurity, Eustachian tube anatomy (small with a horizontal direction in children versus long and vertical in adult), recurrent upper respiratory tract infections, pacifier use and lack of breastfeeding are the main causes.”


3- What are the symptoms? How can a parent detect it?
“The symptoms of Otitis Media are fever, ear pain, and possible drainage of fluid from the ear. When any of these symptoms are present, the parent should consult a physician.”


4- What can a parent do when Otitis Media is recurrent or occurs frequently?
“Recurrent Otitis Media is when the child has more than three Otitis Media incidences during a period of 6 months or more than four Otitis Media incidences in a one year period. When the child has recurrent Otitis Media, the pediatrician will refer him/her to see a specialist.”


5- What are the treatment options?
“Usually treatment depends on age. As you probably know not all infections are bacterial hence not all infections require antibiotics. When the child is less than 2 years of age and the physician diagnoses an Otitis Media then antibiotics are required. However, when the child is older than 2 then the physician can wait, as long as the patient follows up on a daily basis (otherwise antibiotics will be prescribed). If we have a severe infection then antibiotic are prescribed regardless of age.”



6- Is the operation an easy procedure? Can you briefly describe it?
“The procedure is easy. The doctor will perform a small opening in the tympanic membrane (ear drum) and will suction the fluid from the middle ear, if it is present. Then a small tube (hollow in the middle) is placed in the opening. This tube will prevent infection and will usually remain in the ear for a couple of months (depending on the kind of tube) and then it may fall out by itself. The operation takes around 15 minutes.”


7- How long is the recovery period?
“The recovery is pretty quick. The child can go back to school/nursery the following day. Your child may have ear pain that can last up to three days post-surgery. Panadol is usually enough for pain management. He or she may also have some fluid drainage from the ear (clear or blood tinged) for up to one week after the surgery.”


8- After the surgery, what changes in the child’s life?
“Right after the procedure, you should avoid water getting into your child’s ears for 1 week. After that the child may shower and swim. He/she should not dive or put his/her head one meter below any water surface. Custom fitted ear molds can be used if he/she experiences discomfort in water.”


This article is only meant as a brief summary. For advice on medical issues you should always consult your doctor before taking any steps.


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