Earache in children: what helps, home remedies and tips

Earache in children: causes and treatment

Earache in children – sometimes difficult to diagnose, after all, the little ones often cannot tell us themselves if they are in pain and if so, what exactly hurts them. There are many causes for the sometimes very unpleasant ear pain: from the peanut that was put in the ear, to an ear infection to ear pain after drafts – many things are possible.

What is behind the earache in children?

Most often, earache in children is caused by an infection. But there are many other diseases that are associated with ear pain and are manifested by different signs. However, the respective symptoms do not all have to occur at the same time.

An overview of some possible causes of ear pain:

root cause symptoms
Otitis severe, stinging or pounding ear pain; Child feels sick, has runny nose or sore throat; decreased hearing; usually high fever; hardness of hearing
Ear inflammation Pain or itching, red or flaky skin in the ear, secretion, cervical lymph nodes are swollen
foreign body Child hears worse than usual, possibly unpleasant-smelling secretion (if foreign body has caused infection), no feeling of illness or fever
Barotrauma by changing the ambient pressure Ear pain begins in the child during or shortly after a flight, pressure in the ear
Boils (inflammation of the hair follicle, a structure that surrounds the hair root) in the outer ear red and bulging bulge; Pain subsides when the boil bursts and the pus contained therein drains away
Ear wax plug (too much ear wax is produced and accumulates) slight ear pain, pressure on the ear, decreased hearing, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), dizziness
Inflammation of the mastoid process (part of the skull) behind the ear Pain focuses on the area behind the ear, often occurs after otitis media, renewed fever
Inflammation of teeth or inflammation of the temporomandibular joint Toothache that radiates up to the ears

If children grab their ears again and again, are restless and tearful, this can indicate earache. The hardens Suspected earache or pain that radiates from other parts of the body, such as the teeth or neck to the ears, the little ones should always be introduced to an ENT or pediatrician. The specialist can find and treat the exact cause of earache in children. The focus is on preventing serious consequences, such as hearing loss from untreated otitis media.

Earache: Children particularly prone to otitis media

Above all, it is acute inflammatory diseases that cause ear pain in children. Above all, acute otitis media (otitis media acuta) should be mentioned, with which especially children under two years of age struggle. 1 By the end of the third year of life, three out of four children had ear pain due to otitis media, and around a third of the tots even more than three times. 2

Why baby and child ears are so sensitive

The reasons why children’s ears are so susceptible to otitis media are, for example:

  • frequent contact with pathogens, high risk of infection (e.g. in the daycare center)
  • Immune system not yet mature
  • short ear trumpet (connecting passage between nasopharynx and middle ear)

The Eustachian tube in adults is about 3.5 inches long, 3 in children it is much shorter, since it is not yet fully developed. Pathogens have such an easy game: If they get into this connecting passage – often in connection with a cold or flu – they get stuck there and cause inflammation. Since the Eustachian tube is not only shorter, but also narrower, swells she due to the inflammation faster. Instead of Pus and inflammatory fluid can flow freely from the middle ear, it builds up inside the ear. This goes hand in hand with sudden, severe, stinging or throbbing ear pain in the children.

Treat otitis media

Approximately 80 percent of the symptoms subside after three days. 4 Nevertheless, it is important, to go to the doctor with babies and children, if there is a suspicion of otitis media in the room, about complications like spreading the inflammation to neighboring bones to prevent.

In addition to medical treatment, for example

  • decongestant nose drops and sprays,
  • anti-inflammatory pain reliever, expectorant medication or
  • Antibiotics (for bacterial otitis media)

According to the patient guidelines of the University of Witten / Herdecke, there are general measures that are good for children with ear pain or an ear infection – even if the effectiveness has not yet been scientifically proven: 5

  • Onion bags (chop onions, wrap in a cotton cloth and put on the ear for about 20 minutes)
  • Heat (for example, irradiation with a red light lamp, three times a day for five to ten minutes 6)

In order to come back to taking antibiotics again, otolaryngologists recommend that antibiotics should only be prescribed immediately to babies under the age of six months if they suffer from bacterial otitis media. Otherwise, it should first be observed for two days whether the health of the young patients does not improve even without antibiotics. 7

Is it true that warmth always helps with earache?

No, not for all types of earache. While children with otitis media feel warmth as beneficial, there are also conditions that help cool the ear from the outside to relieve pain. An example of this is inflammation in the external ear canal (otitis externa), which can be triggered by bacteria, fungi or an allergic reaction (for example, against ingredients in hair care products).

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Christina Cherry
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