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Doctor Examines a Child with an Earache

We can see a child who is at the doctor’s. The child has a temperature, is feeling under the weather and has been complaining of an earache. The doctor is examining the child’s eardrums and can see that they are infected, indicating that there is an infection in the middle ear. At the end of the ...

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This little boy has had a cold for several days. His mother says that he has lacked energy, looked sick and cried more than usual. He has been touching his ears so that she thinks that he must have an earache. Here, the physician is examining the boy's ears using an otoscope. With the help of the otoscope, the physician can look into the auditory canal and examine the boy's eardrums. The physician looks first at the left and then at the right ear. This is an examination that the child may find slightly uncomfortable. It is, therefore, a good idea for the mother to help the physician by holding the child calmly close to her body. The physician sees the boy's left eardrum is red and thicker than normal. This means that the boy has middle ear infection on the left side. The right ear drum looks normal. Let's take a closer look at what the physician actually saw when he looked into the boy's ear. The eardrum is a think membrane that separates the outer ear from the middle ear. This membrane is usually pale and reflects light as seen here. However, if there is infection in the middle ear, the membrane usually looks red, swollen and tent because of pus in the middle ear. Here, we see an inflamed eardrum. The membrane is red and lusterless. If pressure in the middle ear becomes too high, the eardrum may rupture. A small hole then appears on the eardrum through which fluid from the middle ear runs out into the outer ear. The boy has an upper inner way infection. The physician listens to the boy's lungs using a stethoscope to see whether the infection has also spread to the lower airways. The physician tells the mother that the boy's lungs sound completely normal with no sign of bronchitis or pneumonia. This boy, thus, had a cold for some time after which he developed symptoms of middle ear infection. How can a cold develop into a middle ear infection and why are children more likely to develop this condition than adults? To understand this, we must take a closer look at the structure of the middle ear and its connections with the throat. This animation shows a child's ear. The ear is usually divided into 3 parts. The outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. This is the middle ear. The long, thin passage is called the Eustachian tube. This forms an air passage between the middle ear and the back of the throat. The Eustachian tube is lined with mucous membranes. Children may develop a middle ear infection, usually, after having had a cold for a few days. The cold causes the lining in the Eustachian tube to swell up so that the air passage between the back of the throat and the middle ear is blocked. This increases the risk of infection reaching the middle ear. Fluid and pus may form, increasing pressure in the middle ear. This gives the child an earache. The eardrum will also become thickened and inflamed. If the pressure is strong enough, the eardrum may burst and the pus may run out into the air passage or out of the ear. The child will feel better because the ear is not so painful.