Ear Pain


What is it?

Ear pain has a variety of causes. Most commonly it is caused by an ear infection. It can also be caused by fluid behind the ear drum that is putting pressure on the ear drum and causing pain. Ear infections a very common in children 6 months to 2 years of age. Older children and adults also can get ear infections. Infants may display signs of ear pain by acting cranky, having trouble sleeping or pulling on their ears. Your child may have ear pain with or without a fever. If there is any drainage, fluid or pus coming from your child's ear that means the ear drum has ruptured from an ear infection. You may gently wipe away the fluid but do not put anything in the ear to stop the drainage. The only way to determine the cause of your child's ear pain is to examine the ear drum in the office. If your child has an ear infection they may need antibiotics but they are not contagious and will not need to miss school unless they have a fever.


What can I do?

It is difficult as a parent to see your child in pain. There are several things you can do at home while waiting for your child's sick visit to ease the pain. This may especially come in handy if your child's ear pain starts in the middle of the night when the office is not open. You may give Tylenol or Motrin (if your child is over 6 months) to help control the pain or if your child has a fever. Please see the dosage table to determine the correct dose for your child. Some children find that an ice pack wrapped in a towel or a wet wash cloth held against the ear that is painful for 20 minutes can help relieve the pain. Other children find that a warm pack relieves pain if held onto the ear for 20 minutes. A few drops of warm olive oil put into the ear may also help relieve the pain. DO NOT use if your child has any drainage, fluid or pus coming from the ear or if your child has ear tubes in place.


When do I call the office?

Most cases of ear pain will be need to seen in the office to determine the cause. The majority of the time it is safe to wait until morning when the office opens to call for a sick appointment. However there are a few times where a call is warranted at regardless to the time of day or night.


  • Call the office Immediately day or night if:
    • Your child has pink or red swelling behind the ear
    • Your child has a stiff neck and cannot touch their chin to their chest
    • A pointed or sharp object was put into the ear (a pencil, piece of wire or a stick)


  • Call the office during normal hours if:

    • Ear pain as described above
    • Fever
    • A rounded or soft object was inserted into the ear (play-doh, beads, paper). If you cannot easily retrieve the object leave it alone so you do not push it further into the ear canal.