The causes for earaches are many. The most common is an infection of the middle ear. Although uncommon in adults, middle ear infections are an increasing problem for young children.
For parents, it’s important to be well informed about the care and treatment of children’s ears, particularly if their child often has ear pain.
The buildup of infected fluid in the middle ear causes middle ear infections. Fluid buildup is caused when congestion blocks the natural channel (eustachian tube) and fluid is not allowed to drain from the middle ear. Once the fluid is infected with bacteria, a middle ear infection develops. This should be treated with great medical care.
Colds or allergies are also the causes for the congestion and fluid accumulation. That’s why ear infections often occur on the second or third day of a cold.
For children with chronic ear infections, regular treatment with low’doses of antibiotics is sometimes recommended. The insertion of ear tubes, which drain the inner ear through a hole in the eardrum, may also be considered for recurring problems.
An infection of the outer part of the ear canal, known as “swimmer’s ear,” usually results from water in the ear that gets infected. The symptoms are an itchy feeling, redness of the Outer ear or ear canal, and pain from simply wiggling the ear. Ear pain may also result from a buildup of ear- wax in the ear canal. Although earwax is normally protective, it can sometimes become impacted and hard to remove.
Signs and Symptoms
Discharge of fluids from the ear or any type of severe, constant ear pain.
Symptoms of a middle ear infection.
Ear stuffiness or blocked ear passages that do not respond to self-care within 3 days.
Temperature at a level you believe to be a fever.
Child with ear pain.
Painful, itchy outer ear.
Earwax can’t easily be dislodged.
Self Care for middle ear infections
If your medical provider has prescribed an antibiotic, it is important to take it as directed. That means not skipping doses, measuring doses carefully, and taking all the prescribed amount even if the symptoms have gone away. Store the antibiotic as directed as some require refrigeration.
Follow your medical provider’s recommendations for follow-up exams or other measures to prevent future ear problems.
For relief from pain or help with sleep, use acetaminophen (Tylenol, Tempra, or a generic) instead of aspirin. Do not give aspirin to children or adolescents.
Apply heat to the area around the ear to soothe pain.
Avoid swimming, airplane flights, or trips to the mountains.
Since colds are a common cause of ear infections, teach your children to prevent colds by avoiding contact with people with a cold. Teach children to wash their hands after contact with someone with a cold.