When to Take Child to ER for Ear Pain
Wondering when to take child to ER for ear pain? Earaches are an indication of ear infections and other possible problems. An earache is the most common among children. According to Texas Children’s Hospital, roughly 80% to 90% of children will have an ear infection by age 3, with the highest incidence being between 6 to 18 months.
Earaches and ear infections have various causes ranging from viral to bacterial and fungal, affecting other parts of the ear. Several earaches can wait for a doctor’s appointment, but some ear problems may need immediate emergency care attention. Continue reading to learn about symptoms, causes, and treatments, and when to take child to ER for ear pain.
Symptoms of Earaches
Earaches are known for pain in the inner or outer ear that may interfere with hearing, often caused by excess fluid and infection. However, your child may be too young to express their ear pain, so look for the symptoms of an earache, including:
- Tugging or pulling of the ear
- Fussiness and crying
- Trouble sleeping
- High Fever
- Fluid draining from the ear
- Refusal to eat or drink
- Hearing loss
- Nasal congestion
The Different Causes of Earaches
Earaches aren’t always due to underlying disease. There are two leading causes of earaches in young children: middle ear infections and swimmer’s ear. Nonetheless, there are still a variety of reasons that produce ear problems, including:
- Ear Infection: The most common cause of earaches is a middle ear infection which is the space behind the eardrum. A virus or bacteria generally causes them.
- Swimmer’s Ear: An outer ear canal infection that runs from the eardrum to the outside of the head is usually caused by water remaining in the ear after swimming.
- Earwax: Large pieces of earwax stuck in your ear can cause mild ear pain, especially if the wax has been pushed in by cotton swabs.
- Airplane Ear: Airplanes can cause eardrums to stretch due to the sudden increases in air pressure. It usually begins when the airplane is landing; however, it can also occur during mountain driving.
- Pierced Ear Infection: These are very common and must be treated early or become very painful.
- Ear Canal Problems:
- Injury: A cotton swab or fingernail can potentially cause a scrape in the canal.
- Abscess: A hair follicle infection on the ear canal could start as a red bump and then turn into a pimple.
- Foreign Object: Young children love to play with objects; however, if the product is sharp and placed inside their ear, that can cause an earache.
At-Home Earache Treatment
At-home remedies could ease the ear pain your child is experiencing. They are safe and approved by doctors to try on young children. Try these methods below:
- Ibuprofen: Over-the-counter medications are great immediate treatments to help kids treat the pain of the ear infection and the accompanying inflammation.
- Warm Towel: Soaking a washcloth in a warm towel and putting it over the infected ear could temporarily relieve the pain they are experiencing.
- Chew Gum: This applies primarily to being on an airplane or driving at high altitudes. Chewing gum can lower the chances of air pressure and ease your child’s symptoms.
- Resting Upright: It’s vital to let your young child’s body rest while resting or sleeping sitting up rather than lying down. This encourages the fluid from their ear to drain.
When to Visit Emergency Care
Ear infections don’t require an immediate visit to your local care center. They usually go away fairly quickly and can be relieved with over-the-counter medication or at-home remedies. However, a visit to the closest emergency room is advised in the following circumstances:
- High fever
- Signs of severe pain
- Isn’t able to eat or drink or refuses to
- Signs of dehydration
- Fluid draining from their ear
- Blue, pale, or yellow appearance to the skin
Earaches are very common in children. As parents, it’s vital to check your children for any symptoms as young children with ear infections tend to be fussy and irritable. Everything mentioned above will help you know when to take child to ER for ear pain. Earaches usually don’t last long. However, if the pain hasn’t improved within a few days, immediately take your child to your nearest emergency room facility.
We have 9 facilities spread across the DFW area that are OPEN 24/7 located in Hurst, Colleyville, Frisco, Highland Village, Hillcrest, Uptown, Little Elm, Mansfield, and Texoma.