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Earache in Children: Care Instructions

Your Care Instructions

Even though infection is a common cause of ear pain, not all ear pain means an infection.

If your child complains of ear pain and does not have an infection, it could be because of teething, a sore throat, or a blocked eustachian tube. The eustachian tube goes from the back of the throat to the ear.

When ear discomfort or pain is mild or comes and goes without other symptoms, home treatment may be all your child needs.

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 call line 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?

  • Try to get your child to swallow more often. He or she could have a blocked eustachian tube. Let a child younger than 2 years drink from a bottle or cup to try to help open the tube.
  • Some babies and children with ear pain feel better sitting up than lying down. Allow the child to rest in the position that is most comfortable.
  • Apply heat to the ear to ease pain. Use a warm face cloth. Be careful not to burn the skin.
  • Follow all instructions on the label. If you give medicine to your baby, follow your doctor's advice about what amount to give.
  • Give your child acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) for pain. Read and follow all instructions on the label. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 18. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
  • Do not give a 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.
  • Never insert anything, such as a cotton swab or a bobby pin, into the ear. You can gently clean the outside of your child's ear with a warm face cloth.
  • Ask your doctor if you need to take extra care to keep water from getting in your child's ears when bathing or swimming.

When should you call for help?

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

  • Your child has worsening symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the area.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever.

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

  • Your child has new or worse discharge coming from the ear.
  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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