Many times in children, an ear ache is due to an ear infection, although there are other possibilities. Most ear aches, especially when they are associated with fever, should be evaluated by your physician. Medications are not generally prescribed for an ear ache by telephone since it is difficult to determine the problem and prescribing antibiotics without a proper diagnosis is dangerous to your child (see section on antibiotics). Other problems, which can cause an ear ache, relate to an inability to equalize pressure in the ear following a cough, sneeze, or crying episode, etc. Many times, this can be relieved with a few minutes of rest. An antihistamine/decongestant preparation can help with this if the tubes in the ear are blocked.
To provide relief for your child at home prior to calling your physician, the following measures can be tried:
- Use Acetaminophen for pain (Tempra, Tylenol – see Dosing Guide).
- Rest your child’s head on a hot water bottle or heating pad. This may helprelieve the pain.
- If there is no drainage from the ear and if you have some Auralgan drops onhand, they may be placed in the ear to relieve the pain. Do not use Auralgan drops if there is drainage or if your child has pressure-equalizing tubes. Remember that an ear ache is usually worse at night and you should contact your physician the following day even if he/she seems better.
- If you have a cough/cold preparation containing codeine such as Phenergan with codeine, Tylenol with codeine or other codeine containing medicines, these can be given every few hours as needed (see Dosing Guide). If the ear ache is severe enough to require codeine to get the child through the night, then you should bring him/her into the physician the next day even if he/she seems fine. This medication, of course, does nothing for the infection, it only relieves the pain.
- Children who develop ear ache and fever should be seen by your doctor within 24 hours of the onset of their illness.
- Old prescriptions should not be given to a child with a new onset of an ear ache.
If your child’s ear is draining pus, then the child should come in for an examination. It is possible that he/she may have a torn ear drum. This is not usually a serious condition and the ear drum will heal. The child should come in for an office visit during office hours. A cotton wick made from a cotton ball may be placed into the ear to absorb the drainage.
All hearing problems should be evaluated during regular office hours.
Object in the Ear
Rocks, seeds, beans and other small objects that are placed in the ear by a child should be removed during your physician’s regular office hours unless the child has pain or bleeding.