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Mastoiditis in Children: Care Instructions


Mastoiditis (say "mass-toy-DY-tus) is an infection that affects the bone behind the ear. It can occur after your child has an ear infection. Sometimes an ear infection can spread to areas outside of the ear. This can cause new problems, like mastoiditis.

The swelling behind your child's ear can push the ear forward. As the swelling goes away, the ear will move back to its normal place.

Antibiotics are the most common treatment for mastoiditis. If the antibiotics don't work, your child may need ear tubes put in their ears to help drain fluid over time.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, give it as prescribed.
    • If your child is not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask the doctor if your child can take an over-the-counter pain reliever.
    • Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 18. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
  • Be careful if you are giving your child over-the-counter cold or influenza (flu) medicines and Tylenol at the same time. Many of these medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Read the labels to make sure that you are not giving your child more than the recommended dose. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
  • Give your child antibiotics as directed. Do not stop using them just because your child feels better. Your child needs to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Place a warm, moist face cloth on your child's ear to help relieve pain.
  • Ask your doctor if your child needs to take extra care to keep water from getting in the ears when bathing or swimming.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has new or worse symptoms of infection, which may be an abscess. Signs of infection include:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the area.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever.
  • Your child has a severe headache.
  • Your child has new hearing loss.
  • Your child can't move one side of their face.
  • Your child is dizzy or has vertigo.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.