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How Otitis Media is Treated

It's important to have your child's ears looked at.

  • The doctor may not give your child medicine at first.
  • But if the infection is severe, or lasts more than 2-3 days, it's very important to treat it.
  • That's because if it lasts for a long time, it can cause serious problems.
    • It can cause permanent hearing loss.
    • It can cause problems speaking and understanding.

Treatment with antibiotics

  • Most cases of severe or acute otitis media can be treated with medicine called antibiotics.
  • The doctor will send you to get an antibiotic that your child must swallow. Sometimes the doctor will prescribe antibiotic eardrops. It depends on the kind of ear infection.
  • Your child needs to take the antibiotic for 7 to 10 days. The doctor will tell you exactly how long.
  • Make sure your child takes all the antibiotics that her doctor says. She might feel better after 2 or 3 days, but she should keep taking the rest of the antibiotics. She should not skip doses or stop.
    • This is because if she stops taking them, the infection can come back.
  • Your child should take her antibiotics at the same time each day. That way you won't forget a dose.


Before you leave the doctor's office, make sure you understand how your child should take the antibiotics.

  • Some antibiotics are taken only 1 time a day. But usually they are taken 2 or 3 times a day.
  • Sometimes they are taken with food. Other times they are taken on an empty stomach.
  • There might be certain foods your child shouldn't eat while taking antibiotics.
  • Ask the doctor any questions until you're sure how your child should take the medicine.
  • It's important to do exactly what the doctor says. Then you can be sure the antibiotics will work.

Treatment with surgery

Some children with otitis media need an operation.

  • Some children get otitis media over and over.
  • Some children have a really bad case of otitis media.
  • Surgery can help.

The most common operation is called a myringotomy (mi-rin-GAH-to-mee).

  • Your child goes into a deep sleep with medicine called anesthesia
  • While she's asleep, the surgeon cuts a tiny hole in her eardrum.
  • Then the surgeon puts small tubes inside her ears. These tubes are as small as the tip of a pencil.
  • The tubes help drain or get the fluid out of your child's ears. They also help keep the right amount of pressure in her ears.
  • The hole in her eardrum will heal in a week.
  • The tubes fall out on their own after a few months to a year.
  • Usually 1 myringotomy will fix the problem. But some children need to have the operation again if the tubes fall out before the infections stop.

Another operation is called an adenoidectomy (ADD-in-oyd-ECK-to-mee).

  • Your child goes into a deep sleep with anesthesia.
  • The surgeon takes away your child's adenoids.
  • The adenoids are in the back of the throat near the Eustachian tubes.
  • An adenoidectomy is like getting your tonsils out. Sometimes the doctor will take out the tonsils if they are blocking the fluid from getting out.

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To learn more about otitis media, look at:

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National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
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