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Object in a Child's Ear: Care Instructions


An insect or an object in the ear usually does not damage the ear. But some objects in the ear can cause problems. For example, dry food can expand in the ear, and a battery can release chemicals. Objects that have been in the ear for longer than 24 hours are harder to remove and can cause pain, infection, or bleeding. If an object is pushed hard into the ear, it may damage the eardrum.

The doctor probably removed the object from your child's ear during the exam. Your child's ear may feel tender for a few days.

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?

  • The doctor may have used medicine to numb the ear. When it wears off, ear pain may return. Give your child an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Do not give your child two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
  • If the doctor prescribed antibiotics for your child, give them as directed. Do not stop using them just because your child feels better. Your child needs to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • The doctor may prescribe eardrops. You may want to ask another adult to help you put in eardrops in a young child. To put in eardrops:
    • First, warm the drops by rolling the container in your hands or placing it in your armpit for a few minutes. Putting cold eardrops in your child's ear can cause ear pain and dizziness.
    • Have your child lie down, with the sore ear facing up.
    • Place the prescribed amount of drops on the inside wall of the ear canal. Gently wiggle the outer ear to help the drops move down into the ear.
    • It's important to keep the liquid in the ear canal for 3 to 5 minutes.
  • You can put heat on your child's ear to relieve pain. Use a warm cloth.
  • Do not put cotton swabs, bobby pins, or other objects in the ear. Do not put any liquids in the ear, unless the doctor directs you to.

When should you call for help?

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

  • Your child has symptoms of an ear infection, such as:
    • Pain, swelling, redness, heat, or tenderness around or behind the ear.
    • Drainage from the ear.
    • A fever.
    • A headache with a stiff neck.
    • Sudden hearing loss.

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

  • Your child's symptoms become more severe or frequent.
  • You or your child thinks that there is still an object in the ear.
  • Your child does not get better in 2 to 4 days.
  • Your child has any new symptoms, such as hearing loss or dizziness.
  • Your child has bleeding or bloody drainage from the ear.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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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.