Earache is a common childhood complaint. The most common cause is an ear infection caused by a viral or bacterial infection. Other causes include fluid, a foreign object in the ear, or change in air pressure.

The main symptoms of earache in children are:

  • Unwell, irritable, or cries a lot
  • Discharge from the ear
  • Pulls at or rubs their ear
  • Complains of pain
  • Fever
  • More distressed when lying down. Unable to sleep
  • Wax build up

What you can do for earaches

  • Sit/prop upright to help relieve ear pressure
  • Take OTC pain relievers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol – follow the directions of your doctor or pharmacist
  • If you are flying, try feeding your baby to help them equalise the pressure. For older children, give them something to chew or suck.
  • Never poke anything (like cotton tips) into your child’s ear
  • Discuss a wax build up with your chemist or doctor.

When should you see a doctor

If your baby is under three months old and has a fever, no matter how mild, you should see a doctor.

For older children you should see a doctor:

  • when there is a persistent fever, blood or pus draining from the ear or swelling around the ear
  • if your baby is between three and six months with a temperature over 39 ºC
  • if they are over six months old and they have a fever over 40ºC. A doctor should be seen quickly
  • if the fever doesn’t resolve after 2-3 days at home or they are shivering or shaking uncontrollably or have chattering teeth
  • if they are generally unwell and you are worried
  • if they are dizzy, nauseous, have a bad headache, stiff neck or severe pain

Untreated ear infections can cause hearing loss and other complications. Persistent ear infections may result in “glue ear”, which is a build-up of fluid in the ear.


  1. Angelgirl081 27/11/2017 at 4:54 pm

    Neither of my two have ever had ear ache or infections thankfully but interestingly my 4 year old does have really bad glue ear that has affected her hearing to the point she needs grommets and I do wonder how she got it.

  2. SarahBlair 12/11/2017 at 4:58 pm

    My daughter has burst her eardrum twice, it was so sudden, she complained that her ear had started to hurt then within about an hour or two there was discharge running from her ear! I was surprised at how quickly it happened, I couldnt even a doctor appointment within that time, luckily both times her eardrum healed, with the help of antibiotics, with no lasting effects.

  3. kymmage 12/11/2017 at 4:28 pm

    thankfully this is something I have little experience with. I know many parents though, who have had non-stop ear infections and I really feel for them. It’s especially upsetting for any of us when our babies are in pain and we don’t know why and what to do about it. Thankfully there are OTC treatments and there’s always a trip to the Dr if in doubt.

  4. Mands1980 10/11/2017 at 9:15 am

    Earache is horrible in kids all 3 have had them and you never know how bad it is till going to the doctors. High temps even 40 degrees they have had and touching there ears is a sign panadol and antibiotics work really well to get rid of them.

  5. Jen_Wiig 09/11/2017 at 6:02 pm

    Gosh im glad my boys havent had ear aches, i really expe ted them to as i used to get them alot… That was until i had my tonsils taken out and gromits put in they seemed to subsided. Love the Nurophen now has chswable pain relief for things like this… Brillant!!!

  6. MuddledUpMolly 08/11/2017 at 11:38 am

    With two little ones, this article is of huge relevance to us as a family. I have heard good things about this new nurofen product so will be sure to check it out next time we are in the supermarket. It’s good to know that a product like this is so readily available in the worst case scenario that illness strikes when doctors and pharmacies aren’t open and available.

  7. Bevik1971 08/11/2017 at 10:24 am

    My now 4 year old daughter suffered from a few ear infections from when she was very young, she actually caught her first ear infection in hospital when she was a few days old! Not nice for a very little babe and hard to tell what is wrong at that age as they just cry and seem unsettled. She hasn’t had one for quite some time now thank goodness, but panadol and usually antibiotics cure them.

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