Ear infection, also known as otitits, is an infection or inflammation of the inner or outer parts of the ear. There are many types of ear infection, but the most common is otitis media, which occurrs in the inner or middle ear (located just behind the eardrum). The condition is classified as either acute (occurring suddenly and for a short time), or chronic (occurring repeatedly over a long period of time).
Other specific types of ear infection include:
Acute otitis externa - an inflammation, irritation, or infection of the outer ear and ear canal, also known as swimmer's ear.
Chronic otitis externa - Chronic swimmer's ear.
Malignant otitis externa - a disorder involving inflammation and damage of the bones and cartilage of the base of the skull.
Otitis media with effusion - an asymptomatic inflammation with fluid in the middle ear.
Ear infections are curable with treatment but may recur. They are not life threatening but may be quite painful, so it's important to contact your health care provider for a diagnosis and treatment.
Ear infection is one of the most common reasons parents take their children to the doctor.
Ear infections are most common in infants and children because the tubes that run from each middle ear to the back of the throat, called eustachian tubes, become clogged easily.
Children who are at a higher risk of developing ear infection include:
Children cared for in day care centers or group settings.
Children who are exposed to tobacco smoke or higher levels of air pollution.
Children with a family history of such infections.
Children who are American Indians or Eskimos from Alaska or Canada.
Babies who drink from a bottle while lying down as opposed to being held upright during feedings.
Children exposed to cold climate.
Children who experience a change in altitude or climate.
Children who use a pacifier.
Children who've had a recent ear infection or other illness.