Otitis media is an infection of the middle ear that is particularly common in young children. The main symptoms of acute otitis media include: ear ache, a high temperature (fever), being sick, lack of energy, slight hearing loss.
It is less common than acute otitis media, some children have a persistent and painless discharge from their ear that lasts for many months as a result of an ear infection. This is known as chronic suppurative otitis media (CSOM). It's estimated that around one in every four children will have had at least one middle ear infection by the time they are 10 years old. Acute otitis media is very common in childhood. It is the most common condition for which medical care is provided in children under five years of age.
The incidence of otitis externa is high. In the Netherlands, it has been estimated at 12–14 per 1000 population per year, and has been shown to affect more than 1% of a sample of the population over a 12-month period. Most ear infections resolve without treatment with antibiotics. What's best for your child depends on many factors, including your child's age and the severity of symptoms. The routine use of antibiotics to treat middle ear infections is not recommended as there is no evidence that they speed up the healing process. Many cases are caused by viruses, which antibiotics are ineffective against. Using antibiotics to treat minor bacterial infections also increases the likelihood of bacteria becoming resistant to them over time. This means more serious infections could become untreatable in the future. Read about antibiotic resistance for more information.