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Earaches

Learn why children are more susceptible to middle ear infections than adults.

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-Earaches are very common in young children. The pain may be in one ear or two ears. And not surprisingly, younger children won't be able to tell us where it hurts. When younger children have an earache, which often happens when they have a cold or a sore throat, they may have sudden screaming fits and appear to be in real pain or they'll be very irritable, have trouble sleeping and not have much of an appetite. Toddlers with earaches will often hold or pull on their ear that hurts them. And remember, an earache is often, but not always, combined with a fever. Here's what you really have to know about earaches and what you need to do. Sometimes an earache can be a sign of a serious illness. If your child has an earache combined with a stiff neck, get to the doctor immediately. If you're not sure whether your child has a stiff neck or not, click on the link called Testing for a Stiff Neck. If your child has an earache and is dizzy or has difficulty keeping his balance or if your child has an earache combined with swelling and redness of the skin behind the ear, see the doctor immediately. If you suspect that there is a foreign body stuck in your child's ear, a bug, a piece of dirt, a toy, or if pus or blood runs out of your child's ear, get to the doctor right away. Okay. Now, that you've worried about the serious, but rare things, let's talk about the much more common ear problems. Remember, most children will get earaches from time to time. Sometimes the pain is caused by a middle ear infection called otitis media or an outer ear infection called the swimmer's ear. If your child is under 1 year of age and you suspect she has an earache or if your child is over a year of age and has an earache with a fever of 101 or more, call the doctor. If your child has ear pain especially if it is causing him to cry, give him a pain reliever such as acetaminophen, which is also called Tylenol or ibuprofen, which is also called Advil or Motrin, in the correct dose for his weight to ease the pain. But if the pain doesn't seem to ease within an hour or so of taking the medicine, call the doctor. Many cases of inflammation of the middle ear will actually get better in a few days on their own. If your child is over 2, doesn't appear to be seriously ill and doesn't even have a fever, you can monitor the situation for a day or two and help ease the pain with some home treatments. Click on the links called Home Treatment to see what to do. If your child seems very uncomfortable, or doesn't seem to get better after home treatment, or you're just not sure, don't ever hesitate to call your doctor.