What Is Otitis?

Otitis is usually more common in the growth stages of children, but in Europe, it's often associated with the arrival of spring.
What Is Otitis?

Written by Equipo Editorial

Last update: 17 May, 2023

Otitis is an inflammation of the ear, usually caused by a bacterial or viral infection. The most common type of this condition is known as otitis media. However, there are other types, such as external otitis.

Otitis is usually more common in the growth stages of children, but in Europe it’s usually associated with the arrival of spring. In other latitudes, its appearance is usually linked to other more severe infectious processes such as meningitis and encephalitis.


As we mentioned before, two main types of otitis can be differentiated:

  • Otitis media
  • External otitis

Otitis media

Otitis media occurs with the presence of fluid called exudate, with or without pus. It’s caused by an inflammation in the cavity of the middle ear, which is located just behind the eardrum.

It occurs when the Eustachian tube, which is the canal that connects the middle part of the ear to the throat, becomes blocked for different reasons. The function of this tube is to drain the fluid that’s produced in the middle ear, so if it becomes blocked, this fluid can accumulate and cause an infection.

It’s one of the most frequent ear problems in childhood and one of the main reasons for a visit to the pediatrician. It’s estimated that, by the age of five, more than 90% of children will have suffered an episode of acute otitis media and 30% will develop six or more recurrences up to 7 years of age. After this age, the incidence decreases significantly.

Otitis can be of viral or bacterial origin and the presence of this infection for several months can lead to hearing loss in patients.

Causes and symptoms

The most significant cause of otitis media is tubal dysfunction or malfunction of the Eustachian tube. It can be obstructed for a number of reasons, including:

  • Infectious processes
  • Allergies in the pharynx or throat
  • Inflammation and infection of the adenoids
Throat pain.

As we have seen, the infection can be both viral and bacterial. Also, other possible causes are:

  • Colds
  • Tobacco smoke and other irritants
  • Excess mucus and saliva that occurs in teething, in the case of babies

On the other hand, as for the symptoms of otitis media, the main ones are:

  • Ear pain
  • Suppuration or otorrhea
  • Fever
  • General discomfort
  • Irritability


The treatment of otitis media is based on the administration of drugs to relieve pain, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. If there’s no response, a tympanocentesis can be performed, that is, the removal of the fluid accumulated behind the eardrum.

In the case of a bacterial infection, the necessary antibiotics will be prescribed. However, acute otitis media usually heals on its own. In chronic cases, the doctor may recommend tympanostomy tubes placed in the eardrum, so that the Eustachian tube can drain fluids well.

Lots of tablets.

External otitis

This is also known as swimmer’s ear. It consists of painful irritation of the outer ear. In this condition, the skin of the ear canal becomes infected or inflamed.

It’s a common disease in children who spend a lot of time swimming or playing in the water, but it can also occur in people who expose their ears to high humidity for a long period of time.


When water or moisture gets into the ear, it can dissolve the wax that protects the ear. The skin of the ear canal is much more sensitive to infection. For this reason, this otitis is more common in humid tropical areas, as the humid climate there is conducive to the growth of microorganisms.

In addition, the use of a cotton swab can also cause this pathology. The skin of the ear canal is quite delicate and fragile, so a cotton swab can, without too much difficulty, break the skin and allow moisture to cause an infection.


External otitis produces symptoms when the infection becomes more pronounced. Within the symptoms that this disease produces, we can observe in patients some of the following symptoms:

  • Pain and inflammation in the affected area
  • Bad-smelling purulent discharge
  • Itching and hearing loss in exponential cases. In these cases, it’s important that the patient sees a doctor, since otitis can lead to a chronic infection.


Otitis media is easy to treat. It’s cured without any problem, as long as the recommended treatment is respected and followed.

The basis of it is the administration of ear drops with antibiotics, corticosteroids, or antifungals. In addition, the doctor may also prescribe oral antibiotics, depending on the degree of infection. Likewise, corticosteroid drugs are also effective in treating this inflammation and itching.

All these drugs are usually administered together with an adjuvant treatment based on NSAID drugs such as ibuprofen and paracetamol, in order to relieve pain.

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