American Osteopathic Association

Advancing the distinctive philosophy and practice of osteopathic medicine

Colds Could Lead to Middle Ear Infections

Boy with earacheDid you know that infants and children are more likely to get middle ear infections after they have caught a virus or cold? 

The tubes that connect the middle ear to the throat can become blocked and trap fluid that would normally drain from the middle ear.

"This buildup can cause discomfort or pain, then becomes a favorable environment for bacteria or viruses to breed," explains Craig Wax, DO, an osteopathic family physician practicing in Mullica Hill, New Jersey

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Common Symptoms 

Some common symptoms that can indicate a build-up of inner ear fluid include:

  • Pressure in the ear.

  • Hearing popping or ringing sounds.

  • Loss of hearing.

  • Balance problems.

  • Dizziness.

  • Younger children may rub or pull their ears to relieve the pressure.

Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, or DOs, look beyond your symptoms to understand how lifestyle and environmental factors affect your wellbeing. They listen and partner with you to help you get healthy and stay well.

Segue to Middle Ear Infections

You or your child might have a middle ear infections if you notice these symptoms:

  • Mild to severe ear pain.

  • Fever.

  • Loss of appetite, vomiting and grumpy behavior.

  • Sleep issues.

  • Signs of inattentiveness or absent-mindedness, which can signal hearing loss. 

In severe cases, the fluid in the middle ear builds and increases pressure on the eardrum until it ruptures. Once it ruptures, the fluid drains, and the pain usually subsides. The hole in the eardrum will usually heal by itself in a few weeks. If the eardrum does not release the fluid trapped within the tubes, a middle ear infection can worsen. Yellow, clear or bloody discharge can mean the eardrum has ruptured.

Although most ear infections get better without treatment, Dr. Wax recommends immediately visiting a physician if your child suffers from fluid build-up or middle ear infection symptoms lasting longer than a week, particularly children younger than 3 years old.

4 Tips to Preventing Ear Infections

As an osteopathic physician, Dr. Wax offers the following recommendations to prevent ear infections:

  • Wash your hands and your child's hands frequently.

  • Avoid smoky environments. Ear infections are more common in people who are around cigarette smoke. 

  • Vaccinate your child. While immunizations do not prevent ear infections directly, they can prevent illnesses, such as the flu, that often lead to ear infections.

  • Discontinue use of a pacifier. Babies who use pacifiers after 12 months are more likely to develop ear infections.  


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