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Causes of earache

The most common cause of earache is infection, like a middle ear infection or an external ear infection.

Children will sometimes put foreign objects in their ears, which can cause pain.

A build-up of ear wax can block the ear canal and also give your child a sore ear.

Less commonly, the cause of the earache might be a burst eardrum because of an accident, or because a cotton bud or something similar has been pushed too far into your child's ear.

Your child might also have an earache because there's an injury or infection somewhere near her ear, and she feels the pain in her ear. This could happen with sinusitis or tonsillitis, for example.

Ear ache can also be caused by teeth grinding or other dental issues.

Earache symptoms

Earache usually happens only on one side.

Your child might also have a runny nose, fever or vomiting. He might have quite severe pain.

A young baby with an earache might pull or tug the affected ear. She might also seem generally irritable and have trouble sleeping.

Does your child need to see a doctor about earache?

Yes. If your child says he has an earache or sore ear, you should take him to see your GP.

Treatment for earache

Earache treatment depends on the cause of the earache.

If your child has a sore ear because of an ear infection, your GP will consider what's causing the infection before deciding on treatment. Most infections are caused by viruses, so antibiotics won't help. Your GP will prescribe antibiotics only if the infection is caused by bacteria.

You can give your child paracetamol or ibuprofen at the recommended doses to help with a sore ear caused by an ear infection.

For things stuck in a child's ear, the treatment will usually depend on what the object is. If it's something soft like a corn kernel, the doctor might use fine forceps or a special spoon to get it out. If it's hard - for example, a plastic bead from a necklace - the doctor might use a special syringe to flush out the object.

Never try to remove an object from your child's ear yourself.

If the earache is caused by a burst eardrum, the eardrum will usually fix itself. It's still important that your GP checks your child.

If the sore ear is caused by a nearby infection like tonsillitis or sinusitis, your GP will tell you what to do about these conditions.


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