Mon07282014

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'Conquering Otitis Media,' goal of Health Library book

Rare are the parents who get through their child's first few years without having to deal with an ear infection. For some families, the problem might not be an occasional bothersome event but ongoing chronic troubles that are painful and can cause hearing loss. The book "Conquering Otitis Media" by Charles Bluestone, M.D. is a welcome text for parents trying to understand the complexities of ear infections in their young child.

The first two chapters, "What is Otitis Media?" and "Who is Most Affected and Why," explain the difference between otitis media and acute otitis media - two conditions likely to take you scurrying to Urgent Care.

"Otitis media means an inflammation of the middle ear. Otitis means inflammation of the ear and media means it happens in the middle ear. An infection means that organisms, such as viruses or bacteria, have caused the inflammation. An inflammation means that there may only be fluid in the middle ear, but no infection. This is a very important point that will help you understand why some types of otitis media are treated with antibiotics, while others are not." The author explains that when there is an infection present, your child will usually present with a fever, earache and fluid in the middle ear. This condition is called acute otitis media and is often treated with antibiotics.

As to who is affected and why, Bluestone explains that otitis media brings more patients to the doctor every year than any other infection. While the common cold and upper respiratory infections are more numerous, it is the painful ear infection that is getting the most attention. Not only is it the most prevalent condition, its numbers are on the rise. The increase in otitis media cases parallels the increased number of children attending day care. It is infants with their not fully developed immune systems who are most likely to catch the infections that lead to the condition.

"The tube that goes from the back of the nose to the middle ear, the eustachian tube, is also immature, but matures and functions better as the child grows up. When an infant or young child is around many other children of the same age, such as in a day-care setting, colds spread from one kid to the next all the time. The nasal infection gets into the middle ear through the immature eustachian tube, where the child's immune system has difficulty fighting the bacteria. This results in otitis media. The more children there are in the day care, the greater the chance of catching a cold, and the more likely an ear infection will develop."

For those who are unfamiliar with the eustachian tube, this book will bring you up-to-date on where it is in the ear and why it affects the likelihood of your child having repeated bouts with ear infections as they grow.

Another important subject that the book addresses is the question of when to use antibiotics. Since this condition is treated differently in Europe, it is worth explaining why your doctor is making the decision to use or not use antibiotics.

The chapter "How Can You and Your Doctor Keep Otitis Media from Coming Back?" is one you may want to rush ahead to read, but since Bluestone does such an excellent job of laying out the nature of the disorder, it will be more meaningful if you read the chapters in order. This book should give parents a clearer idea of what otitis media is and what parts of it they can control.

Perhaps the most reassuring words of all come in Chapter 11: "The most important thing you should remember when you have a child who gets repeated episodes of otitis media is that most children have fewer attacks of otitis media as they grow older, without medical or surgical methods to prevent the attacks."

"Conquering Otitis Media" is part of The Health Library's eBook collection.

The Health Library resources are not intended as a substitute for medical care. Books can be checked out from The Health Library's eBooks collection at healthlibrary.stanford.edu. The main branch is located at 2-B Stanford Shopping Center. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and until 9 p.m. on Thursdays. For information, call (415) 725-8400.

The Health Library is a Community Service of Stanford Hospital and Clinics.

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