The most common cause of earache is a middle ear infection (acute otitis media) that results from an infection in the upper respiratory tract, similar to a cold. The infection causes the mucus membranes in the Eustachian tube (the tube that connects the middle ear to the back of the throat) to swell, and the pressure behind the eardrum increases. The low pressure in the ear then leads to a build-up of fluids and middle ear infection. When a child has a cold or a fever, he may experience pain in one or both ears. A younger child may not yet be able to tell you that he is in pain and where the pain is located, but he may give you nonverbal signs: sudden screaming fits, irritability, and holding or pulling on the affected ear.
Once the middle ear is infected, pus builds up behind the eardrum and, as a result, increased pressure on the eardrum causes pain. At the same time, the eardrum itself becomes thick and swollen and may rupture, leading the pus to run into the ear canal and out the ear.
For children 2 years old or older who are not seriously ill and have no fever, simply monitor the condition for 1 to 2 days. Many cases of middle ear infection will get better after a few days.
You can give your child the following treatments to ease the earache:
Call 911 or the doctor immediately if your child:
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