Otitis media

Flu complication: Otitis media

Why it occurs (1)

Otitis media is an infection of your middle ear.

This happens when you have an infection, such as the flu, that causes mucus build-up in your middle ear.

If the thin tube that runs from the middle ear to the back of the nose becomes swollen, mucus can't drain away – making it easier for the infection to spread to the middle ear.

Treatment (1)(2)

Most ear infections clear up in three to five days and don’t need any specific treatment.

To reduce the discomfort, take an over-the-counter painkiller (but check with your doctor if you have other conditions), place a warm or cold flannel on your ear and wipe your ear with cotton wool to remove the discharge.

Occasionally, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics if your symptoms persist or are particularly severe.

Impact if untreated (1)

Complications of middle ear infections are fairly rare but can be serious and often need to be treated immediately with antibiotics in the hospital.

Most complications are the result of the infection spreading to another part of the ear or head, including the bones behind the ear (mastoiditis), the inner ear (labyrinthitis) or the protective membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord (meningitis).

(1) http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/tonsillitis/Pages/Introduction.aspx
(2) https://beta.nhs.uk/conditions/ear-infections/