WEDNESDAY, Feb. 16, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- About one in five children with a cold or other respiratory viral infection develops a middle ear infection that may range from mild to severe, says a new study.
U.S. researchers looked at the number of cases of middle ear infection -- acute otitis media -- among 294 children, ages 6 months to 3 years. Overall, 22 percent of the children developed a middle ear infection during the first week of respiratory infection.
A diagnosis of acute otitis media was based on the presence of symptoms such as fever and earache, plus inflammation of the eardrum and fluid in the middle ear. Along with the 22 percent of children who developed the ear infection, another 7 percent had inflammation of the eardrum without fluid in the middle ear.
Among the children with the middle ear infection, eardrum inflammation was rated mild in 8 percent, moderate in 59 percent and severe in 35 percent. Of the 126 children who had the infection in both ears, the infection was more pronounced in one ear in 54 percent of the cases.
In general, children with the infection were treated without antibiotics whenever possible. Of the 28 children with mild middle ear infection, 24 improved without antibiotics, four got worse and three of them eventually required antibiotics.
The study appears in the February issue of The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal.
The findings suggest that many children with mild middle ear infections can be managed without antibiotics, said lead author Dr. Stella U. Kalu, University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, and colleagues, in a journal news release.
The U.S. National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders has more about ear infections in children.