Ear infections (acute otitis media) occur in the space behind the eardrum, which is called the middle ear. Ear infections are more likely to occur after a cold or other upper respiratory infection has been present for a few days.
During a cold, throat infection, or allergy attack, the tube that connects the throat and the middle ear (eustachian tube) swells and prevents air from entering the middle ear. This can create suction, which pulls fluid into the middle ear space. The fluid becomes trapped in the middle ear, allowing viruses or bacteria to grow and cause infection.
Ear infections are most common in children younger than age 7. Young children have shorter, softer, and more horizontal eustachian tubes, which are more easily blocked than those of older children and s.
Symptoms of ear infection can include ear pain, fever, thick and yellow drainage from the ear, irritability, loss of appetite, vomiting, difficulty sleeping, and trouble hearing.