Otitis media is an infection of the middle ear that is caused when a bacterial or viral infection spreads from your nose or throat into the middle ear.
Anyone can get middle ear infections, but they’re most common in young children.
The infection can lead to a build-up of fluid in the middle ear, which makes the eardrum bulge outwards, causing earache. The fluid can also cause a slight hearing loss, as the ossicles (the tiny bones in your ear) won’t be able to move freely and pass sound waves to the inner ear.
In severe cases the eardrum can tear, with a sudden discharge of pus and blood into the outer ear canal.
How is otitis media treated?
Most cases of otitis media clear up within a few days to a week without the need for treatment. But get advice from your GP anyway, because, although rare, complications from an ear infection can be serious.
If there’s no improvement after several days, or if you’re very unwell, you may be prescribed antibiotics. If so, you must take the entire course.