Child Ear Pain: Symptoms, Treatment


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Your kid may have an ear pain or infection if they are fussy, cry more than usual, and tug at their ear. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, 5 out of 6 children will have an ear infection before their third birthday.

Otitis media, or ear infection, is a painful inflammation of the middle ear. Most ear infections occur in the eardrum and eustachian tube, which connects the ears, nose, and throat.

Ear infections frequently follow a cold. Bacteria or viruses are the most common causes. The eustachian tube becomes inflamed and swells as a result of the infection. The tube narrows, causing pressure and pain behind the eardrum as fluid builds up. Kids’ eustachian tubes are narrower and shorter than adults’. Furthermore, because their tubes are more horizontal, they are more likely to become blocked.

According to the Children’s National Health System, about 5 to 10% of children with an ear infection will have a ruptured eardrum. The eardrum usually heals in 1 to 2 weeks, and the child’s hearing is rarely permanently damaged.

Symptoms of an Ear Infection

Is your 5-year-old complaining of ear pain? Earaches are painful, and your baby won’t be able to tell you how much it hurts. However, there are a few ear pain common signs in children:

  • irritability
  • fever
  • loss of appetite
  • pulling or batting at the ear (note that if the baby has no other signs and symptoms, this is the unreliable sign)
  • trouble sleeping
  • fluid draining from the ear

Ear infections may cause dizziness. If your child has reached the wobbling stage, take extra precautions to keep them safe from falls.

Child Ear Pain Treatment

Ear infections typically last a few days. Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers or eardrops will most likely be used to treat your child’s pain and fever. If your child does not improve within a few days of starting treatment, you may need to return to the doctor. If bacteria cause the infection, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic at that point.

Antibiotics are rarely prescribed for ear infections unless they are chronic and recurrent. Overprescribing antibiotics for ear infections are not effective, according to research. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, doctors should wait 2 to 3 days before prescribing antibiotics for ear infections in children aged 2 to 12 who have non-severe symptoms. This gives you time to see if the over-the-counter medications are effective.

Your physician or doctor will refer you to an ENT doctor if your child has chronic ear infections, signs of hearing loss, or speech delays resulting from hearing loss. Your child’s ENT may recommend surgery. The ENT will insert tubes into your child’s middle ear during this procedure. The tubes allow the fluid to drain and relieve the pressure as some children have naturally small Eustachian tubes, this aids in their correction. Tubes fall out as your child’s ears grow and develop, and ear infections are no longer a problem. The tubes can fall out prematurely and need to be replaced. They never fall out for some children and must eventually be surgically removed. The procedure is quick and does not require an overnight stay in the hospital. If your child has frequent ear infections, Down syndrome, a cleft palate, or a weakened immune system, your doctor may recommend this surgery.

Ear Pain in Child: Home Remedies

Ear infections can be painful, but there are steps you can take to alleviate the discomfort. Home remedies that you can consider:

Warm compress

For 10 to 15 minutes, place a warm, moist compress over your child’s ear. This could help with pain relief.

Stay hydrated

Give fluids to your child regularly. Swallowing can assist in the opening of the eustachian tube, allowing the trapped fluid to drain.

Homeopathic eardrops

Homeopathic eardrops containing extracts of garlic, lavender, mullein, St. John’s wort, and calendula in olive oil can help relieve the inflammation and child ear pain at night.

Warm oil

If no fluid draining from the child’s ear and the ruptured eardrum is not suspected, place a few drops of slightly warmed or room temperature sesame oil or olive oil in the affected ear.

Elevate the baby’s head

To help your baby’s sinus drainage, raise the crib slightly at the head. Pillows should not be placed under your baby’s head. Place a pillow or two under the mattress instead.

Preventing Ear Infections

Although many ear infections are unavoidable, you can take steps to reduce your baby’s risk of getting an ear infection.


If possible, breastfeed your baby for 6 to 12 months. Antibodies in your breast milk can protect your baby from ear infections and a variety of other illnesses.

Proper bottle position

Hold your baby in a semi-upright position if you’re bottle-feeding, so the formula doesn’t flow back into the eustachian tubes. For the same reason, avoid bottle propping.

Avoid secondhand smoke

Protect your child from secondhand smoke, which can cause ear infections to become more severe and frequent.


Ensure that your child’s immunizations, including flu shots (for children 6 months and older) and pneumococcal vaccines, are up to date.

Healthy environment

Avoid exposing your baby to situations where cold and flu bugs are prevalent. If you or someone in your family is sick, wash your hands frequently to keep germs from spreading to your baby.

See the Doctor

Contact a healthcare provider right away if:

  • Your child develops a stiff neck.
  • Your child is not walking steadily; they are physically very weak.
  • Your child looks or acts sick, acts sluggish, or doesn’t stop crying despite all the efforts.
  • Your child wakes up screaming of severe ear pain.
  • Your child is showing weakness signs on their face (look for their crooked smile).
  • You see pus-filled or bloody fluid draining from their ear.

Call a doctor during office hours if:

  • Child complaining of ear pain with fever
  • Earache is severe.
  • Earache is not better even after three days of taking antibiotics.

Ear infections can cause unnecessary pain and permanent hearing loss in your child if left untreated. So, it is advised to consult a doctor before it’s too late. You can book an appointment with a child specialist via

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