Learn about what could be causing your child’s ear pain and how to help them sleep.
TOP FOUR CAUSES OF EAR PAIN
- Ear infection – click here for more information on ear infections.
- Swimmer’s ear – click here for more information on swimmer’s ear.
- Common cold without ear infection – sometimes a simple cold can cause congestion or pressure inside the ear, which can be painful.
- Referred pain from another source – sore throat or tooth pain can be perceived as ear pain.
GETTING THROUGH THE NIGHT
- Encourage your child to sleep with the sore ear up.
- Acetaminophen or ibuprofen are effective pain relievers for ear pain. You can safely use both medications together if one alone is not enough. Click on each medication for dosage.
- Warm compress – apply a warm washcloth to the ear.
- Warm olive oil, vegetable oil, or garlic oil – put several drops of one of these into the ear. MAKE SURE THE OIL ISN’T TOO HOT.
- Anesthetic eardrops – if the above remedies aren’t enough, these are available by prescription and can numb the eardrum to minimize the pain for an hour or two.
- WARNING – if you see any liquid or pus draining out of the ear, DO NOT PUT ANY OF THE ABOVE DROPS INTO THE EAR. See below under ear drainage.
WHEN TO WORRY (AND NOT TO WORRY!)
Although ear pain can be troublesome and cause a difficult, sleepless night for both parents and child, IT IS RARELY A REASON TO RUSH INTO AN EMERGENCY ROOM OR CALL YOUR DOCTOR URGENTLY FOR ANTIBIOTICS. Whether the cause is infection, swimmers ear or pain for another reason, starting antibiotics in the middle of the night won’t help as it usually takes 24 – 48 hours to start working.
Try the above remedies to get you child through the night, and then seek medical attention in the morning.
If you see any liquid or pus draining out of the ear, DON’T PANIC! This is probably a ruptured eardrum from an ear infection (in which case the pain of an ear infection will be relieved) or swimmer’s ear. Try the warm compresses and pain medications above, and seek medical attention in the morning.