Earaches and ear infections are surprisingly common in babies and young children but can be quite a distressing experience if you’re not sure what’s wrong. It’s not always easy to spot the signs of an ear infection, but with a bit of knowledge, you’ll understand why your child gets earaches and what you can do to help.
Earaches can occur in the middle or outer ear. Middle ear earaches are most commonly caused by a bacterial or viral infection. For example, when your child has a cold, bacteria can grow in the passages that connect the middle ear to nose. If these passages block up, the middle ear becomes infected and inflamed. The build-up inside the ear places pressure on the eardrum, causing it to bulge and become painful for your child.
Other causes of earaches such as:
- Fluid building up inside the ear
- Blocked ears from earwax or other objects
- Injury to the ear canal from cotton buds or other objects
If you’re not sure what’s causing their earache or if you’re worried about your child's’ hearing, see a doctor.
What are some signs of an earache?
Earache can be miserable for a child of any age and be worrying for you, as a parent or carer. The signs to look for include:
How can I help relieve my child's earache?
Most earaches usually clear up within a few days. Tips you can try at home include getting your child to rest in an upright position instead of lying down, to help relieve some of the pressure and place a warm flannel against the affected ear to help relieve the pain.
If your child is in pain you can also give them some pain relief medicine to soothe their earache. Nurofen for Children 3 months to 9 years contains ibuprofen which has anti-inflammatory properties.
If your child’s earache doesn’t improve or if you have any concerns contact your doctor.
UK NHS Choices as of May 2018