Infectiousness of an otitis media

General information

Acute inflammation of the middle ear is a disease that can be caused by both viral and bacterial pathogens. The causative pathogens are less directly directed against the middle ear, but rather cause an extensive infection, which ultimately causes inflammatory processes within the middle ear.

How long is a middle ear infection contagious?

Otitis media itself is not contagious. However, the preceding cold or flu is contagious. The risk of infection can last from a few days to over a week, and in some cases even longer.

The nose and throat are connected to the tympanic cavity of the middle ear via the auditory tube. Normally, the ciliated respiratory epithelium inside the Eustachian tube ensures that its so-called cilia move towards the throat. This cilia beat normally also keeps infectious germs away from the tympanic cavity.

If this protective mechanism fails, germs from an infection can enter the middle ear and cause otitis media. The duration of the risk of infection of the underlying middle ear infection depends on various factors. An uncomplicated middle ear infection usually lasts for a week. As long as the germs are present, there is a risk of infection. If the germs have been killed off by the body’s own immune system or by antibiotics, the risk of infection is over, even if the body still needs to regenerate.

How contagious is a middle ear infection for pregnant women?

It is not the inflammation of the middle ear but the infection that causes it that is contagious for pregnant women. It is usually a droplet infection that can be transmitted by air or skin contact. Since in some cases the immune system of pregnant women is weakened, the risk of infection with the underlying infection can be greater.

Since it is best to avoid medication during pregnancy, an infection in the nose and throat area can last longer. This also carries the additional risk of a pregnant woman carrying germs into the middle ear and thus the risk of middle ear infection. Therefore, infectious situations should be avoided if possible and the immune system should be strengthened.

How contagious is otitis media for a baby?

Not the middle ear infection itself, but the underlying disease is more infectious for babies and toddlers than for children or adults. Because a baby’s body has to build up its immune system first, babies have very little protection against germs. In particular, the baby’s immune system can hardly defend itself against germs that are transmitted through the air or through skin contact.

In addition, the ear trumpet, the connection between the throat area and the middle ear, is still very short in babies, so that germs can quickly reach the middle ear. About two out of three children fall ill with middle ear infection at least once in the first 3 years of life, often more often. A baby who has a middle ear infection cries out very often, is restless and throws its head from one side to the other, as well as frequently touching its ears. To protect a baby from infections and middle ear infections, protective measures should be taken accordingly. Contact with people who have a cold, flu or other infections should be avoided at all costs.