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Children's Earache

Symptoms and Pain Management

Dr. Lourdes Mosqueda Profile Photo

Written by Dr. Lourdes Mosqueda on May 10, 2021

The term “earache” can mean a couple of different things ranging from illness to injury, and if your little one is too young to verbalize their symptoms to you, it can sometimes be tough to know what is causing their ear pain.

Most often, though, an earache is caused by an ear infection unless you are aware that your child may have sustained an injury to the area around their ear. Ear infections are usually not serious, but knowing the signs and symptoms can help you quickly recognize one and get your child the right medicine.

Main Symptoms and Causes of Earache and Ear Infection

An earache is characterized by:

  • Pain in or around the ear
  • Verbalization of ear pain, if the child is old enough to explain this
  • Recognition of similar behaviors to the last time your child had an earache
  • Pain that was not caused by an injury to the ear

Earaches have many different causes, not all of which are illness-related. Causes of an earache that are not related to illness are things like an injury to the ear canal, excess earwax, a foreign object in the ear canal, referred pain, or pressure in the ear like that experienced while on an airplane.
All of these causes are common when it comes to ear pain, but if you know none of these apply to your child, you can pretty safely assume that they have an ear infection… and if you aren’t sure or have questions and concerns, you should call your pediatrician. There is no shame in playing it safe.

Ear Infection: The Low-Down

In short, an ear infection happens when the middle ear, also known as the space behind the eardrum, becomes infected, often by a virus as opposed to bacteria.

The main symptom of an ear infection is an earache, and your little one will probably get a bit fussy and may cry or have some trouble sleeping. In about 50% of kids with an ear infection, a fever will also occur.

Ear infections are extremely common, and often peak at 6 months old to 2 years old. They generally remain a very common problem until 8 years of age. That said, being able to recognize an ear infection and have some at-home treatment strategies ready to go may be a great idea if your kiddo is under the age of 8 because ear infections just might become a regular problem.


Do Ear Infections Cause Trouble Hearing?

An ear infection might temporarily interfere with your little one’s hearing abilities, but if your child has repeated ear infections, you should talk to your doctor to prevent any further problems, especially if your child has any language or speech difficulties.

Additionally, ear infections can cause damage to the eardrum in severe cases where complications occur. Thus, if your child’s symptoms seem to worsen or do not get better with treatment, you should call your doctor.

Treatment

There are several ways that you might treat an ear infection. After taking your child to the doctor, the doctor will determine if the infection was caused by bacteria or a virus, and will prescribe medication accordingly. Antibiotics will be prescribed if the ear infection was caused by bacteria, and if a virus is the culprit, observation and pain control is the plan.

Over-the-counter medicines can also help ease any pain your kiddo is experiencing. Genexa’s Kids’ Pain & Fever acetaminophen is a great option because it works to soothe minor aches and pains as well as reduce fever -- both of which can be symptoms of an ear infection.

Genexa is the first clean medicine brand, meaning their products contain the active ingredients you need without the artificial inactive ingredients you don’t need… and probably don’t want to give to your kids. Any inactive ingredients in Genexa’s products are non-GMO, gluten-free, and certified vegan options that serve to improve taste, texture, and stability. So, you can rest assured that you are getting medicine you can trust.

Genexa was founded by two dads who know the struggle of finding medicine that is safe and effective for your kids, and that is why they are committed to making real, clean medicine.

In addition to medications, you can also ease ear infection symptoms by holding a warm heating pad over the affected ear. Just make sure it is warm and not hot!


Preventing Earaches and Ear Infections

Once your kid has an ear infection, thinking ahead and planning some methods of prevention can help keep them from getting more ear infections moving forward. Prevention is especially important if your child is still in the vulnerable stage where ear infections are particularly common!

Earaches and ear infections can be prevented in several ways:

  • Avoid using cotton swabs or sharp objects to clean ears, as these can sometimes cause injury to the ear canal
  • Avoid secondhand smoke and anybody who you know has a cold -- exposure can make ear infections more likely
  • Help your kiddos get into the habit of washing their hands frequently! Encouraging them to take hand sanitizer with them when they go to school or other places with children. Washing hands or using hand sanitizer after touching high-contact surfaces can help keep them healthy.

Putting these methods into practice can make a big difference, especially if your child spends a lot of time around other children in a school or daycare setting.

When To Consult a Doctor

In some cases, more serious signs and symptoms may present themselves, and these are an indication that your child needs medical care.

These signs include:

  • Your child continues to show signs of being ill even after they start a prescription medication
  • Your child’s ear pain gets worse
  • Your child’s infected ear begins to drain fluid, pus, or blood
  • There is swelling and/or redness behind the ear
  • The infected ear begins to stick out from the side of your child’s head

These are indications that your little one’s infection may be turning into something more serious, and consulting your pediatrician promptly will get things taken care of.

Ear infections rarely cause further, severe complications, but you should never take serious symptoms lightly. An ear infection can sometimes cause damage to the eardrum in the affected ear, which is why it is so important to consult a doctor if any of the above symptoms present themselves.


The Bottom Line

Earaches can be caused by a variety of things but when it comes to children, the most common cause is an ear infection.

Ear infections can be caused by either bacteria or a virus, and a doctor is needed in order to determine which of these is the cause so that the correct medication can be prescribed for your child. Aside from prescription medicine, ear infections can also be treated with over-the-counter kids’ pain relievers, a warm washcloth placed over the ear, and plenty of rest.

Moving forward, you can help keep your child from catching an ear infection by making sure they get into the habit of washing their hands frequently after touching high-contact surfaces, avoiding secondhand smoke and any children who are sick, and avoiding the use of cotton swabs and sharp objects when cleaning ears.

Ear infections are typically not serious, and we hope your little one feels better soon.



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