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OME; Secretory otitis media; Serous otitis media; Silent otitis media; Silent ear infection; Glue ear
Unless there are also signs of an infection, most health care providers will not treat OME at first. Instead, they will recheck the problem in 2 - 3 months.
Some children who have had repeat ear infections may receive a smaller, daily dose of antibiotics to prevent new infections.
Certain changes may help clear up the fluid behind the eardrum:
Most often the fluid will clear on its own. You doctor may suggest waiting and watching to see if the condition worsens.
If the fluid is still present after 6 weeks, treatment might include:
If the fluid is still present at 8 - 12 weeks, antibiotics may be tried, although they are not always helpful.
At some point, the child's hearing should be tested.
If there is significant hearing loss (> 20 decibels), antibiotics or ear tubes might be appropriate.
If the fluid is still present after 4 - 6 months, tubes are probably needed, even if there is no significant hearing loss.
Sometimes the adenoids must be removed to restore proper functioning of the Eustachian tube.
Otitis media with effusion usually goes away on its own over a few weeks or months. Treatment may speed up this process. Glue ear may not clear as quickly as OME with a thinner effusion.
OME is usually not life threatening. Most children do not have long-term damage to their hearing or speaking ability, even when the fluid remains for many months.
Note: Permanent hearing loss is rare, but the risk increases the more ear infections a child has.
Call your health care provider if:
American Academy of Family Physicians; American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery; American Academy of Pediatrics Subcommittee on Otitis Media With Effusion. Otitis media with effusion. Pediatrics. 2004;113:1412-1429.
Paradise JL, Feldman HM, Campbell TF, Dollaghan CA, Rockette HE, Pitcairn DL, et al. Tympanostomy tubes and developmental outcomes at 9 to 11 years of age. N Engl J Med. 2007;356:248-261.
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