What Should You Do When Your Child Says, “My Ear Hurts?”
Earaches are an early sign of ear infections and other ear problems. If your child is not old enough to tell you that his or her ear hurts, you may look for signs of an earache, such as:
- Tugging or pulling at his ear
- Fussiness and crying
- Trouble sleeping
- Fever, particularly in younger children and infants
- Fluid draining from her ear
- Clumsiness or problems with his balance
- Trouble hearing or responding to quiet sounds
Causes of Ear Pain and Earaches
There are two main causes of earaches in children – middle ear infections and swimmer’s ear.
Middle Ear Infections
Middle ear infections are a common cause of ear pain and earaches in children. Also called Acute otitis media, these infections are the most common type of ear infection. They affect parts of the middle ear, situated between the eardrum and inner ear. Ear infections cause swelling, which can trap fluid behind the eardrum to cause an earache. Sometimes otitis media can cause a fever.
Anyone can get a middle ear infection, but because of the anatomy of their inner ear, children get middle ear infections more often than do adults. Five out of six children will develop an ear infection by their third birthday, according to the National Institutes of Health. In fact, ear infections are the most common reason children go to the doctor.
Middle ear infections usually develop after a child has had a sore throat, cold, or upper respiratory infection when bacteria that cause respiratory infections can move into the middle ear to cause infection there.
Swimmer’s ear is an infection of the outer ear canal, which goes from your child’s eardrum to the outside of her head. As its name suggests, swimmer’s ear usually develops after swimming. Water can enter the ear canal to create a moist environment where bacteria thrive. Putting cotton swabs, fingers or other objects into a child’s ear can damage the thin layer of skin lining the ear canal and lead to swimmer’s ear.
Swimmer’s ear causes severe ear pain when you pull or press the outside part of the ear known as the pinna. The outside of your child’s ear may be swollen and nearby glands may be swollen and tender. Greenish-yellow pus may appear in your child’s ear; your child may develop a slight fever.
Other Causes of Ear Pain
Strep throat, a buildup of earwax, sinus infections, or inserting foreign objects, such as cotton swabs, into the ear can also cause earaches. Flying on airplanes can even cause an earache, as changes in pressure can cause the air pocket in the middle ear to expand when taking off and contract while landing, which stretches the eardrum.
What Should You Do if Your Child’s Ear Hurts?
Many ear problems can wait for an appointment with your pediatrician, but some earaches need immediate medical attention. Take your child to the emergency room if your child develops:
- Severe pain in an ear, whether or not your child has a fever
- Loss of hearing or trouble hearing in one or both ears
- Pus or discharge from an ear, especially if the pus is thick, yellow, bloody, or foul-smelling
Seek medical attention right away if your child has ear pain and:
- A knot or swelling under or behind his ear
- Difficulty moving parts of her face in a normal way
- Personality changes, such as becoming extremely fussy or lethargic
- A high fever (greater than 103.0 F) suddenly
- Has a seizure
These could be signs of serious medical emergencies. If your child needs emergency care for ear pain, contact CapRock 24 Hour Emergency. We are located at 948 William D. Fitch Parkway in College Station, TX. Give us a call at 979-314-2323.