Middle ear infections, referred to medically as otitis media, involve inflammation and a buildup of fluid just behind the eardrum. People can develop otitis media at any point during their lives, but young children aged between 6 and 18 months of age are most vulnerable. Of course, children that young are unlikely to Google their symptoms and report back to you, so you need to keep an eye out for the symptoms of otitis media yourself.

1. Signs of Pain

The most common symptom associated with otitis media is pain localised around the ear. However, young children may not be able to indicate that pain to you directly. Slightly older toddlers may clutch or pull at the affected ear, while younger infants may simply cry intensely. It can be extremely worrying if your child starts showing signs of pain without any discernible cause, but it could be nothing more than otitis media. It's always best to take them to a general practitioner to make sure and have the problem checked.

2. Fever

Any kind of inflammation is going to involve swelling and redness. Young children have very good immune systems, but they may still develop a fever when having to deal with otitis media. If you notice that your child is running a high temperature, it's always best to seek medical advice.  

3. Coughing and Sniffing

Otitis media sometimes occurs in isolation. However, this is not always the case. In many cases, otitis media is caused or worsened by an upper respiratory tract infection (URTI). If your child develops otitis media, they may also suffer from a runny nose, nasal congestion, coughing, or sneezing—essentially, it will seem a little like they have caught the common cold.

4. Discharge

Not all cases of otitis media result in discharge from the ear, but this can sometimes happen when the eardrum is perforated. When this occurs, the pus and fluid that was building up behind the eardrum will start to drain out. Children will usually stop showing any signs of pain or discomfort when this occurs, since excess fluid will no longer be stretching the ear drum.

5. Loss of Balance

Children aged between 6 and 18 months aren't exactly known for their balance and grace, so it can be tricky to discern whether anything is the matter. However, you should pay attention to any unexplained balance issues, as they might just be caused by a middle ear infection.