6 Signs Your Child Has an Earache

Jan 04, 2024
6 Signs Your Child Has an Earache
Earaches can cause your child a lot of pain and distress, and if your child is very young, they may not be able to tell you about their symptoms. Fortunately, an earache is fairly easy to identify — as long as you know these tell-tale indicators.

Ear infections are common during childhood, and that means earaches are common, too. In fact, more than 80% of kids have an ear infection by the time they’re three years old. While older children can tell you about any symptoms they’re experiencing, younger kids may not have the communication skills to let you know when something’s wrong.

Without prompt treatment, ear infections can lead to ruptured eardrums, scars, and permanent hearing loss. Here, our expert team at Minit Medical Urgent Care and Physical Therapy reviews six common earache symptoms that should prompt you to seek medical care for your child as soon as possible.

1. Tugging at the ear

Older children typically have no problem letting you know when they have an earache or any type of symptom with their ears or their hearing. But what about very young kids who can’t effectively communicate their ear pain? Often, these children will pull or tug on their ear in response to the discomfort they’re feeling.

2. Fussiness or crying

Earaches are always painful, but they can be especially uncomfortable for very young kids who can’t verbalize their pain. As a result, toddlers and infants may be fussier than normal or cry more than they usually do. They might exhibit greater irritability or other changes in behavior.

3. Problems sleeping

Earaches can cause problems with your child’s sleep schedule, making it harder for them to sleep at night or take naps during the day. Infections involving the outer part of the ear can be especially painful if your child sleeps on their side.

4. Trouble hearing

Pediatric ear infections often involve fluid buildup inside the middle ear area, behind the eardrum. As fluid collects, the eardrum becomes compressed and less responsive to soundwaves. As a result, your child can experience a temporary decrease in hearing that makes them less responsive to your voice and other sounds.

5. Ear drainage

Sometimes, the fluid that builds up inside the ear finds a way to drain out the front of the ear. The fluid may appear clear, or it may take on a yellowish tinge that indicates pus is present. 

6. Fever

Like other infections, ear infections can cause a fever in your child. Your child’s fever can be relatively mild if the infection is minor, increasing as the infection progresses without treatment.

Treating an earache

Earaches aren’t always caused by ear infections. Allergies, sore throats, tooth pain, a buildup of earwax, or a foreign object lodged in the ear canal can all lead to persistent ear pain, too. Before prescribing any treatment for your child’s earache, we use a special scope to examine your child’s ears, and we may order other testing, too.

Depending on the underlying cause, we may recommend over-the-counter medication or prescription medicines, like oral antibiotics, or antibiotic ear or nose drops. Severe infections that recur may need a minor surgical procedure to improve the way your child’s ears drain.

Earaches aren’t always serious, but they should never be ignored. Delaying care for more serious problems can result in permanent hearing loss and advanced infection that spreads to other areas.

To learn what’s causing your child’s earache and find a treatment that can help, book an appointment online or over the phone at Minit Medical Urgent Care and Physical Therapy today — we offer island-wide care from three offices in Kihei, Kahului, and Lahaina, Hawaii.