Skip to main content
Go to homepage

Print Page

How to Handle an Earache

Earaches are common in kids and can have many causes. Here’s why they happen and what to do when your child complains of ear pain.

What Causes Earaches?

First Aid

Kids might complain of ear pain or pull on an ear due to:

What Can Help a Child With an Earache Feel Better?

Give acetaminophen or ibuprofen as needed to ease pain (check instructions carefully for the correct amount). Don't give ibuprofen to an infant younger than 6 months old.

Applying a lukewarm cloth to the ear also can help with pain, as can raising your child’s head while they sleep.

Don’t use ear drops unless your doctor says it’s OK.

When Should I Call the Doctor for an Earache?

Call the doctor if you tried home care measures and your child doesn’t seem to be improving, the pain is severe, or the pain began after an injury. Also call if:

  • your child has trouble taking liquids or is vomiting
  • blood or pus is draining from the ear
  • there is swelling and redness or a deeper skin tone around the ear or behind it
  • the sore ear sticks out more from the side of the head than the other ear
  • your child also has a fever, neck pain, or a headache

Can Earaches Be Prevented?

While not all earaches can be prevented, these things can help prevent ear pain:

  • Make sure your kids get the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) and the flu vaccine, which might make them less likely to get middle ear infections.
  • Do not clean ears with cotton swabs or sharp objects.
  • Avoid secondhand smoke and anyone with a cold (both can make ear infections more likely).
  • Get kids in the habit of washing their hands well and often, especially after playing around other kids.
  • Don't give a bottle when your baby is lying down.

If your child swims a lot, ask the doctor if earplugs and special ear drops are a good idea.

Reviewed by: Melanie L. Pitone, MD
Date Reviewed: Mar 16, 2023

Lea este articulo en Español

What next?

Summit Mall Play Area
Answer Key:
Click to expand
There are 10 nurses in the picture.

And we have many more pediatric primary care providers in Northeast Ohio. You can meet some of them here.
Summit Mall Play Area
Answer Key:
Click to expand
The five differences are:
– Phone color
– Coat pocket
– Stethoscope earpiece color
– Stethoscope bell dot
– Clipboard paper color

Need help finding a doctor, choosing a location or getting a general question about Akron Children's answered? Call us or fill out the form and we'll help in any way we can.
Summit Mall Play Area
Answer Key:
Click to expand
The two matching doctors are 9 and 14.

With virtual visits, you can see our pediatric experts from the comfort of home or wherever you are.
Summit Mall Play Area
Answer Key:
Click to expand
The correct path:
The Correct Path
We offer many ways to get pediatric care all over Northeast Ohio. Use this page to find the right kind of care and the most convenient location for you.