If your child develops otitis media with effusion, they may need to visit a pediatric otolaryngology specialist, also called a pediatric ENT doctor. Otitis media with effusion refers to middle ear inflammation accompanied by the presence of fluid, or effusion, in the middle ear, which is located behind the eardrum. While otitis media with effusion can affect people of all ages, it is most common in children, who may present with the following symptoms and who may have some of the following risk factors.
While otitis media with effusion is sometimes asymptomatic, your child may experience muffled hearing, hearing loss, earache, and a sensation of fullness inside the ear. Loss of appetite, ear pulling, fever, crying, and irritability may also be present. If your child's eardrum is ruptured, fluid may drain out of the affected ear as well. The drainage may be clear, bloody, or cloudy, the latter typically being the result of pus.
Difficulty sleeping and loss of appetite may also occur as a result of otitis media. It is important to note that if your child develops a fever, they should drink plenty of fluids to help prevent dehydration. Your child's pediatric otolaryngology examination may reveal erythema, or redness in the ear, a bulging eardrum, also called the tympanic membrane, and perforation of the eardrum.
Risk factors for otitis media with effusion may include viral or bacterial infections of the respiratory tract, allergies, adenoid inflammation, and exposure to certain irritants such as cigarette smoke. Another risk factor for babies is drinking from a bottle when lying flat because this can cause bacteria in the throat and mouth to migrate into your child's eustachian tubes.
Once bacteria enter the eustachian tubes, they can spread to the middle ear, raising the risk for infection and effusion. In addition, certain abnormalities of the craniofacial structures, such as a cleft palate, can also increase your child's risk for otitis media with effusion. A cleft palate is a malformation or hole in the roof of the mouth. Because of this hole, the eustachian tube may not effectively drain, resulting in excess fluid and an increased risk for middle ear infections.
If your child develops any of the above symptoms of otitis media with effusion, make an appointment with a pediatric otolaryngology doctor. When this condition is diagnosed and treated in its beginning stages, your child may be less likely to develop hearing loss, scarring of the tympanic membrane, and secondary infections.