Earaches are a common childhood ailment and are usually not serious, but they may require the attention of a doctor if an ear infection is present. Earaches are characterized primarily by ear pain but can also be accompanied by other symptoms. The most common cause of earache is a middle ear infection that derives from an infection in the upper respiratory tract, similar to a cold. When a child has a cold or a fever, he/she may experience pain in one or both ears.
Somewhat surprisingly, an earache is not always necessarily caused by the ear itself. For example, a throat infection, such as tonsillitis, a cold, jaw pain, a dental abscess, or facial nerve pain can all cause an earache.
When the earache originates inside the ear, it is frequently due to one of several reasons:
- There may be fluid buildup inside the eardrum.
- The ear canal may be infected.
- There may be an infected hair follicle inside the ear canal.
- The ear canal may have sustained an injury from a foreign object, such as a Q-tip.
- There may be a blockage in the ear caused by earwax or other stuck object.
Because earaches are common among children who cannot yet tell you about their pain, it’s important to be aware of the symptoms of earache so that you can take action as soon as possible.
- Infants/babies may appear flushed, overheated, and irritable, and show little interest in food.
- Young children may lose their appetite and pull on or rub the affected ear.
- Children of all ages are likely to experience trouble sleeping, coughing, runny nose, a temperature, trouble hearing, and possibly poor balance.
Most earaches are treatable and do not cause long-term damage. Your doctor may prescribe age-appropriate antibiotics or recommend over-the-counter medication such as ibuprofen or eardrops. If your child’s earache persists or frequently recurs, your doctor may suggest placing tubes inside the ear to prevent fluid buildup and infection.
Contact your doctor or call our after-hour nurse help line if your child has any of the following symptoms:
- Experiences an earache along with dizziness or difficulty balancing.
- Has an earache along with swollen and red skin behind the ear.
- Has pus or blood is running out of the ear (This is an indication that the eardrum has ruptured).
- The earache or fever is persisting after 48 hours of treatment with antibiotics.
- Has an earache as well as a stiff neck.
- Has something stuck in the ear.