Ear infections (otitis media) are often difficult to detect in kids because most children affected by this disorder do not yet have sufficient speech and language skills to tell someone what is bothering them. Common signs to look for include unusual irritability, difficulty sleeping, tugging or pulling at one or both ears, earache, fever, fluid draining from the ear, loss of balance, and unresponsiveness to quiet sounds or other signs of hearing difficulty such as sitting too close to the television or being inattentive. Fluid buildup in the middle ear also blocks sound, which can lead to temporary hearing difficulties. An older child or adult may complain verbally of an earache (ear pain).
If the pressure from the fluid buildup is high enough, it can cause the eardrum to rupture, resulting in drainage of fluid from the ear, which may include blood and thick, yellow pus. This releases the pressure behind the eardrum, usually bringing on relief from the pain.
Otitis media with effusion often has no symptoms at all. In some individuals, the fluid that is in the middle ear may create a sensation of ear fullness or "popping." As with acute otitis media, the fluid behind the eardrum can block sound, so mild temporary hearing loss can happen, although it may not be obvious.
Ear infections are also frequently associated with upper respiratory tract infections (such as colds), so signs and symptoms such as a runny or stuffy nose or a cough may be present. An ear infection is not contagious (able to be spread),but the cold that may have caused the infection can be. Symptoms of a middle ear infection (otitis media) often start two to seven days after a cold or other upper respiratory infection.
Duration: Acute ear infections usually clear up within one or two weeks. Sometimes, ear infections last longer and become chronic (long term). After an infection, fluid may stay in the middle ear. This may lead to more infections and hearing loss.
The signs and symptoms of acute otitis media may range from very mild to severe.
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