Middle ear infections are a common condition of early childhood. The middle ear is connected to the back of the nose by the Eustachian (you-stay-shen) tube. In children, this tube is short and wide and becomes easily blocked. In middle ear infections, the eardrum becomes red, inflamed, and swollen. This usually occurs following an upper respiratory infection. Symptoms include a feeling of fullness in the affected ear, and a severe earache, fever, diarrhea, and hearing loss may follow. Unless the condition is treated early, pus may form, increasing pressure against the eardrum until it bursts. To prevent the eardrum from rupturing, your physician may decide to make a small incision in the eardrum to relieve the pressure and allow the pus to drain. Middle ear infections usually respond rapidly to treatment with antibiotics. Your doctor may recommend that you apply a moist, warm cloth or a heating pad next to the ear. A non-aspirin or other pain reliever can also ease the symptoms, but do not give aspirin to children under the age of sixteen, due to its association with Reye's (rize) Syndrome. Acute middle ear infections must be medically treated, so if you experience symptoms, consult your health care provider as soon as possible.