Kid Care: Ear Problems
Earaches are common in young children. When ear problems are due to swimmer's ear or wax buildup, they can usually be taken care of at home. A middle ear infection needs a healthcare provider's care.
Evaluating the Problem
Ear problems are due either to a middle ear infection, an external ear canal infection (swimmer's ear), or wax buildup. Gently wiggle the outside of your child's ear. If pain increases when the outer ear is wiggled, your child may have an external infection. If you child can't hear well, use a penlight to look inside the ear. Check for wax buildup. If your child has fever or severe pain, those are signs of a serious ear problem. Call your healthcare provider.
When to Call Your Doctor
Middle ear infections and all ear injuries need medical attention. Call your healthcare provider if you notice any of these signs or symptoms:
You can help relieve discomfort until the condition clears up or until you can get to a healthcare provider. Antibiotics may be needed in some cases. You can begin pain treatment by using a nonaspirin pain reliever, such as acetaminophen.
Preventing Future Problems
There are things you can do to help avoid more ear problems in the future. You can:
Reduce your child's exposure to cigarette smoke.
Bottle-feed only when your child is sitting up, not lying down.
Keep the ear canal dry after swimming by placing a few drops of alcohol in the ear.
Avoid putting any rigid object (such as a cotton swab) in the ear, even to clean it.