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Middle ear infections cause many symptoms including a clear fluid that can drain from the ear. This fluid contains bacteria. Middle ear infections are very common in childhood and rare in adults. In rare cases, surgical procedures are necessary to drain the fluid. Normally, they can easily be treated with conservative measures.
Make an appointment with your doctor. He or she can examine your child and determine the need for treatment. Doctors will usually wait 72 hours before administering medication if your child is generally healthy and is older than age 6 months.
Give your child antibiotics as directed. This is a common treatment for ear infections that present with fluid. Make sure your child finishes the whole course of treatment, even if he or she feels better after a couple of days. Failure to do so can increase the chances the infection will return. Amoxicillin is the most commonly prescribed antibiotic for middle ear infections, but other options are available if your child is allergic.
Talk to your doctor about surgery to drain the fluid if your child experiences recurrent infections that are not responding to antibiotics or if it is affecting his or her hearing. The most common procedure is called a myringotomy, which involves putting a small drainage tube through the eardrum. The tube drains the fluid and restores normal pressure between the middle ear and outer ear. This procedure will provide immediate relief. The tubes eventually come out naturally as your child grows, and the drainage holes will close up within a year.
Follow all of your doctor's instructions regarding the ear tubes. Your child will need to use special ear plugs when swimming and bathing. Your doctor can tell you where to get them. He or she might give you other suggestions as well.
Inserting the ear tubes does not guarantee your child will never get another ear infection. If the infections continue after 4 years of age, your doctor might recommend having your child's adenoids removed. They are responsible for trapping bacteria and other harmful organisms that enter the body, but if they frequently get infected themselves, they can lead to problems such as ear infections.