Answer by Emma Hammett, founder of First Aid for Life
Ear infections are the most common form of ear pain, especially in children.
Symptoms of an ear infection include:
- pain or earache
- a high temperature of 38C or above
- being sick
- a lack of energy
- difficulty hearing
- discharge running out of the ear which may smell or be blood-stained
- feeling of pressure or fullness inside the ear
- itching and irritation in and around the ear
- scaly skin in and around the ear
In babies, symptoms of an infection can show up as rubbing or pulling at their ears, irritability or being off their food, not reacting to some noises or losing their balance.
Ear pain can also be caused by: teething and dental abscess, sore throats and tonsillitis and flus and colds.
Inner infections: otitis media – usually affects children. They affect the inner ear which is the tube – known as the Eustachian tube – which connects the eardrum to the back of the nose. They are more common in children, since their Eustachian tubes are smaller and more level than adults. Viruses such as colds and flu often cause infections.
Treatment: Ear infections often clear up on their own – usually within 3 days – so it is not always necessary to see a doctor. However, antibiotics can be prescribed for inner ear infections if they don’t clear up after 3 days or if fluid is being discharged from the ear.
Treat pain: with painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Some children find it soothing to place a warm or cold flannel on the ear. Gently remove any discharge by wiping the ear with cotton wool. Avoid getting water or shampoo in your ear.