Ear pain in children can range from mild to severe and, as with any childhood illness, can be distressing for both the child and parents. Children’s ear pain should be investigated by a doctor to get a correct diagnosis. Your child may be given antibiotics to clear an underlying infection or there could be a more long-term issue like glue ear. Here, we take a look at some of the more common causes of ear pain in children and what you can do about it.
Symptoms Of Children’s Ear Pain
Depending on the age of your child, they may or may not be able to communicate that they’re experiencing some kind of ear pain. Additionally, ear pain in children can be accompanied by other symptoms that can help determine what the problem is. If you think the cause of your child’s distress is children’s ear pain, then these are some other symptoms to look out for that could indicate you are correct:
- Tugging or pulling at the ears – very young children will often pull at their ears when they have an ear infection or ear pain from teething
- A high temperature – some children’s ear pain is a knock-on effect of a viral infection, or an ear infection itself can cause a fever
- Discharge coming from the ears – excess fluid on the outer ear can be a sign of an outer ear infection
- Trouble hearing – hearing loss in children can be mild and temporary, but on occasion can be a sign of a longer-term problem like glue ear. Glue ear is when a sticky fluid forms in the ear and is not drained out. It can lead to frequent infections and a loss of hearing
- Dizziness – an ear infection or problems with the middle ear can contribute to a loss of balance or some dizziness
- Vomiting – with more serious infections, children can lose their appetite or have spells of vomiting
Causes of Children’s Ear Pain
The most common cause of ear pain in children is an ear infection, usually of the middle ear. Each cause of children’s ear pain can bring with it different symptoms and treatment.
1. Ear Infections
Ear infections in children can happen frequently and are a normal childhood illness.
Ear infections in children are usually down to otitis media, a middle ear infection where fluid builds up and applies pressure to the eardrum, causing children’s ear pain. Children have smaller ear canals and so it is harder for fluid to drain out. Children also have developing immune systems so can not fight off infections as easily.
Children may also be susceptible to swimmer’s ear or otitis externa. This is an outer ear infection where bacteria grows in the ear canal leading to ear infections in children. Otitis externa can develop when there is too much moisture in the ear and bacteria can thrive. Children are therefore prone to this infection if they go swimming regularly.
Certain allergies that affect the sinuses or nasal passage can cause a build-up of fluid or swelling, which, in some cases, leads to ear pain in children. If a child has allergies like hay fever, then your doctor will probably advise managing it with some antihistamines to help relieve any associated symptoms.
Teething can cause temporary ear pain in children, most likely because of the pressure from the teeth pushing through the jaw, or because the nerves in the teeth are close to the ears. This is usually more present when the molars are coming through. Some parents confuse this ear pain with an ear infection, but if there are no other symptoms of ear infections in children, then it may just be teething.
The sinuses are small spaces found behind your cheekbones and in the middle of your forehead. They help to clear passages of mucus and germs. A sinus infection can cause the sinuses to swell. This swelling leads to a feeling of pressure in the face, which can also affect the ears. Sinusitis is usually accompanied by a cough and excess mucus.
5. Ear Wax
If ear wax builds up inside a child’s ear, it can start to put pressure on the eardrum and this will cause children’s ear pain. It’s important not to push wax further into the ear by using cotton buds or other tools. When the ear wax build-up is more severe, children may get blocked ears and possibly experience some hearing loss.
Treatment For Children’s Ear Pain
The treatment for children’s ear pain will vary according to the cause of the ear pain. Doctors may initially suggest a few days of observation to see if the ear pain disappears on its own or an infection clears up without antibiotics. If this doesn’t happen, some options for treating ear pain in children include:
- Pain relief – liquid paracetamol or ibuprofen can alleviate any mild discomfort and help children to rest and recuperate. You can also try a cold compress or a heat pack applied safely to give children some initial relief
- Antibiotics – for serious ear infections that do not clear up by themselves, your doctor will likely recommend a course of antibiotics like amoxicillin. Your child may also be given ear drops to help stop the infection
- Microsuction – for blocked ears, removing the excess wax build-up will stop the feeling of fullness and pressure and, therefore, stop any children’s ear pain associated with wax build-up. Microsuction is a gold standard technique for removing ear wax and is a quick and pain-free treatment for ear pain in children
- Surgery – children with glue ear may get repeated ear infections and children’s ear pain may be affecting their quality of life. When this happens, and especially if there is also hearing loss in children, children may be offered surgery. Small tubes called grommets are inserted into the child’s ear to help fluid drain more efficiently so that ear infections do not develop and hearing is improved
Treating Excess Ear Wax In Children
As with all childhood illnesses, any ear pain in children should be investigated by a medical professional. If ear infections or children’s ear pain is persistent, further tests may be required and children could be referred to an audiologist or ear, nose and throat specialist.
For ear pain in children caused by excess ear wax, gently getting rid of the ear wax will provide relief for children. Microsuction is the quickest and most effective method of ear wax removal. It can also be performed when children have an ear infection and may speed up recovery.
Ear Care Clinic has five locations across London offering professional microsuction services. Contact us to find out more about how we can help reduce ear pain in children caused by ear wax, or book an appointment to start treatment.