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
- 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.