How Can You Tell if Your Baby Has an Earache?

Medically Reviewed on 8/23/2022
The most common symptom of an ear infection is pain. You can tell if you baby has a ear infection because they may cry, have a fever, not want to eat, have trouble sleeping and exhibit other symptoms.
The most common symptom of an ear infection is pain. You can tell if your baby has an ear infection because they may cry, have a fever, do not want to eat, have trouble sleeping, and exhibit other symptoms.

The most common symptom of an ear infection is pain. Older children can tell you that their ears hurt. Babies may cry and seem irritated. You may notice this more during feedings because sucking and swallowing may cause painful pressure changes in the middle ear. A few common signs and symptoms of earache and infection in babies are

  • Loss of appetite
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Body temperature ranging from 100 F to 104 F
  • There may be yellow or white, possibly blood-tinged fluid draining from the baby’s ear
  • The fluid may have a foul odor and will look different from normal earwax (which is orange-yellow or reddish-brown)
  • Pain and pressure often decrease after this drainage begins, but this doesn’t always mean that the infection is going away. You will need to see a pediatrician.

During and after an ear infection, your baby may have trouble hearing for several weeks. This occurs because the fluid behind the eardrum gets in the way of sound transmission. This is usually temporary and clears up after the fluid from the middle ear drains away.

How can we treat earache and ear infections in babies?

In most cases, ear infections clear up without any treatment within a few days. However, there are a few treatment options for treating earaches and ear infections in babies.

Home treatment

  • Experts recommend using analgesics, such as acetaminophen, for pain relief because they can ease the pain and help relieve other symptoms, such as fever.
  • Apart from that ibuprofen may also be used. Read and follow all instructions on the label. Follow your doctor's advice about what dose to give.

A few home remedies

  • Help your child rest by arranging quiet play.
  • Request ear drops from your doctor if the child is irritable and fussy.
  • Pediatricians may prescribe an oral antibiotic or antibiotic ear drops.
  • Ice packs (wrapped in a cloth or towel) or warm compresses placed on the outer ear can help relieve pain due to infections. Keep it in the place for about 20 minutes and repeat it every few hours throughout the day. Some people see relief with heat and others with ice. Some people use both heat and cold alternately.
  • Keep your baby upright when not sleeping. Lying down can increase pressure in the ear, increasing pain.
  • Keep your baby hydrated with sufficient milk, water, or other fluids.

Doctors may also prescribe

  • Ear drops if the baby has an outer ear infection.
  • For middle ear infections, a course of antibiotics is usually given together with medication to ease the pain and fever.
  • For babies with glue ear, tubes (grommets) may be inserted to prevent fluid from accumulating in the middle ear. This helps restore hearing.
  • If your baby has had recurrent ear infections, they may need a hearing test.

It is a good idea to consult your doctor if your baby is showing signs of

  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Difficulty breathing or wheezing
  • Cold or discolored hands or feet with a warm body
  • Fever over 101.3 F
  • Pain in their arms or legs
  • Unusual skin color (pale or blue) around their lips
  • A rash that does not fade when applying pressure to the skin
  • Pain and tenderness of the bone behind the ear
  • Blood or discharge from the ear

How can I prevent ear infections in my baby?

Regular checkups are usually required to rule out the possible causes that may lead to hearing loss. There are many ways to help prevent ear infections.

  • Do not smoke. Ear infections happen more often in children who are around cigarette smoke. Even the fumes from tobacco smoke on your hair and clothes can affect them.
  • Encourage handwashing.
  • Breastfeed your baby.
  • Have your baby immunized.
  • Make sure your baby doesn't go to sleep while sucking on a bottle.
  • Try to limit the use of group childcare.
  • Never poke anything (such as cotton buds) into your baby’s ear, even if they complain that their ear feels blocked.
  • Don’t use ear drops unless they are prescribed by a doctor.

An earache can be a sharp, dull, or burning pain in one or both ears that can last for a short or long time. They are often caused by ear and other upper respiratory infections. Other causes include impacted earwax or injury. You can help relieve a child's earache by encouraging them to swallow if the earache is due to changes in altitude. You can give over-the-counter pain medications if the earache is due to infection or injury. Get medical help right away if your child has severe pain and fever, new or worsening symptoms, or fluid or blood oozing from the ear.

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Medically Reviewed on 8/23/2022
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