Preventing & Treating Earaches

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Baby With Earache

Dealing with a child with an earache can make us parents feel helpless. Often, children can’t sleep and cry all night because of the intense pain. If your child has an earache, there are a few things you can do to help ease the pain, and it’s important to know the signs of when an earache gets serious.


Symptoms of Earaches

If it’s your child’s first ear infection, it’s difficult to figure out what’s wrong, and even more so if your child isn’t talking yet. However, there are several key symptoms to look for:

  • Pain in the ear (amplified when chewing, sucking, or lying down)
  • Pulling/rubbing ears
  • Difficulty hearing
  • Redness in the eardrum or outer ear
  • Fluid leaking from ears
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Headache

Causes of Earaches

The main causes of earaches are injury, infection, irritation in the ear, or referred pain (pain that is felt in the ear even though the ear is not the original source of the pain). The most common causes for earaches are:

  • Ear infection
  • Change in pressure (when traveling high distances)
  • Buildup in earwax
  • Allergies
  • Cold
  • Injury/trauma to the ear
  • Water trapped in the ear
  • Foreign object in the ear

Soothing an Earache

There are a couple different methods you can try to ease the pain of your child’s earache. Some of the ways to soothe an earache include:

  • Ibuprofen or acetaminophen as needed
  • A cold washcloth applied to the ear
  • Sitting upright to relieve pressure
  • Chewing gum to relieve pressure

To prevent the pain from getting worse, do not get the ear wet (going in the pool, taking a bath).

When to See a Doctor

Earaches are common in children and usually are not serious. However, there are a few signs to watch out for when your child has an earache that can be indicators of an eardrum rupture. If he or she has a fever of 104ºF  or higher, seek medical attention. If your child is an infant, seek medical attention immediately for a fever over 101ºF.

If your child has any of these symptoms, it’s recommended that you make an appointment with your pediatrician:

  • Severe ear pain
  • An earache lasting longer than 24 hours
  • Dizziness
  • Migraine
  • Swelling around the ear
  • Blood or pus leaking from ear
  • Drooping in the face

For an ear infection, your pediatrician will prescribe ear drops or oral antibiotics. Like with all antibiotics, it’s extremely important you ensure that your child finishes their entire prescription, or the infection may return.

If it’s a buildup of ear wax that’s causing the pain, your doctor will either prescribe wax-softening ear drops or flush the wax out using a vacuum or a water-based process. Neither of these options is painful.

Preventing Earaches

The way to treat earaches is prevention. The number one habit that helps is to dry the ears thoroughly after swimming or bathing. Also, always make sure to keep foreign objects, including q-tips, out of your child’s ears. Avoid exposure to cigarette smoke and allergy triggers.

For more information on earaches or to make an appointment if your child has an earache, contact RBK pediatrics online or by phone at (631) 499-4114.