Mastoiditis: A leading cause of death in children, yet nobody knows about it


It’s a little-known infection that largely affects children. If left untreated, there are serious side effects. Your child could suffer from deafness, serious illness, or worse – death. It’s called mastoiditis, and it’s critical that every parent know about it. Read on to learn how it could affect your child and how to treat it before it becomes serious.

What Is Mastoiditis?

The term “mastoiditis” means that the mastoid is inflamed. Your mastoid bone is a honeycomb-like structure behind the ear. It’s filled with mastoid cells that maintain the air space in the middle ear. Mastoiditis takes place when ear infections spread to the mastoid bone.

Generally, mastoiditis affects children more than it does adults. The reason for this is because children experience ear infections more frequently. They catch colds and respiratory infections (which cause ear infections) more often than adults do, and their Eustachian tubes are shorter, so fluid in the ear doesn’t drain as well.

Why Is Mastoiditis So Dangerous?

Mastoiditis can be mild and non-life threatening. There’s a more severe form of mastoiditis that causes devastating side effects. Before the discovery of antibiotics, mastoiditis was one of the leading killers of children. With advances in science, this condition has become rare and much easier to cure.

This infection is treated with antibiotics. If you don’t treat it, or if the infection doesn’t respond to treatment (which is incredibly rare), meningitis could develop. Meningitis is an infection of the meninges, which are the membranes surrounding your brain and spinal cord. Meningitis caused by bacteria can be fatal.

Another consequence of untreated mastoiditis is brain abscesses. A brain abscess is a swelling filled with pus. It forms as the result of a fungal or bacterial infection (such as mastoiditis) and can lead to brain damage or death.

What Are the Symptoms of Mastoiditis?

There are some common symptoms of mastoiditis, including pain, redness or swelling behind the ear, ear pain, an ear lobe that sticks out because of a swollen mastoid, fever, irritability or fussiness, headache and hearing loss. Some of these signs are also similar to those of other illnesses, so it’s crucial that you take your child to see a doctor immediately.

How Will the Doctor Diagnose Mastoiditis?

Your child’s doctor will examine him or her and take a medical history. Then, the physician will use an instrument called an otoscope. An otoscope is a lighted scope that enables the doctor to see inside the ear.

The physician might also order blood work or take a culture (insert a swab) into the ear to check for the presence of infection. An x-ray can also detect mastoiditis.

If your child’s doctor is concerned that he or she might also be suffering from a brain abscess, the physician will order a CT scan or an MRI. A lumbar puncture determines whether your child has meningitis. In this test, a needle is inserted into your child’s lower back. The needle gathers cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which surrounds the spine. A lab will test the CSF for meningitis.

Trust Your Child with an Expert

Houston Sinus and Allergy has over a decade of experience in treating nasal allergies. Our practice has won numerous awards, including being voted the Living Best of Reader’s Choice Award in 2015.

You can reach us by calling (832) 237-7777, or fill out the form at the top of the page to book an assessment to start feeling better!

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