In this section
Most children will have an occasional ear infection which will
get better quickly and are not usually serious. A number of
children who have recurrent ear infections will develop otitis
media or 'glue ear'.
Glue ear is when children have sticky fluid in their middle ear
behind the ear drum. This may last for many weeks or months.
It often follows one or more middle ear infections, although it
sometimes happens when there does not seem to have been an
infection. The fluid in the middle ear makes it harder for
your child to hear. When this lasts for a long time hearing and
speech development may be affected.
Glue ear will usually become less common as your child gets
You should take your child to visit a paediatrician (children's
doctor) or ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist if:
At this visit the doctor will discuss the following
treatment options for your child.
If your child is not bothered by the fluid, often no
treatment is needed. It usually goes away by itself over
A 2-3 week course of antibiotics is sometimes prescribed to kill
any remaining germs. This may help the fluid clear.
If the fluid still persists and is affecting your child's
hearing over many months, a brief operation may be suggested. Small
ventilation tubes (called "grommets") are put into your
child's ear during the operation. These tubes help fluid
drain from the middle ear.
Produced in consultation with the RCH
department of General Medicine. First
published 2003. Last review Jan 2006.