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What is it?

An earache is pain or discomfort in or around the ear. It is usually due to an ear infection. Ear infections peak at age 6 months to 2 years. The onset of ear infections peaks on day 3 of a cold.

Pain severity scale

MILD: does not interfere with normal activities

MODERATE: interferes with normal activities or awakens from sleep

SEVERE: excruciating pain, unable to do any normal activities, incapacitated by pain

Home care advice for suspected ear infection (pending office visit)

  1. Reassurance: Diagnosis and treatment can safely wait until morning if the earache begins after office hours.
  2. Pain Medicine: Give acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol) or ibuprofen (e.g. Advil) for pain relief or for fever above 102˚ F (39˚C).
  3. Local Cold: Apply a cold pack or a cold wet washcloth to the outer ear for 20 minutes to reduce pain while the pain medicine takes effect (Note: Some children prefer local heat for 20 minutes).
  4. Avoid Earplugs:
  • If pus or cloudy fluid is draining from the ear canal, the eardrum has ruptured from an ear infection.
  • Wipe the pus away as it appears.
  • Avoid plugging with cotton (Reason: Retained pus causes irritation or infection of the ear canal).
  • Ear drops are not recommended if the child will be seen today (Reason: May make it difficult to visualize the eardrums).
  • For severe earache unresponsive to oral pain medicine, recommend 3 drops of olive oil or other plain cooking oil into the ear canal. Repeat every 4 hours as needed.
  • Your child develops severe pain.
  • Your child becomes worse.
  1. Olive Oil Ear Drops
  1. Contagiousness: Ear infections are not contagious.
  2. Call your pediatrician if:
  • Your child develops severe pain.
  • Your child becomes worse.



Information on this site is intended for Angel Kids Pediatrics patients only. Always consult your doctor before beginning, modifying, or discontinuing any treatment plan.

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