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How Do I Relieve a Child's Earache?

By Bridget Coila ; Updated August 14, 2017

When your child has an earache, you'd do anything to make him feel better. Whether it's caused by a cold, allergies or simply develops on its own, young children are susceptible to painful middle-ear inflammation that leaves them cranky and uncomfortable. Earaches generally aren't contagious, although if they are caused by a virus, the illness itself can be passed on to other kids. An ear infection usually goes away on its own after one to two weeks, but in the meantime, there are some steps you can take to help relieve your child's earache.

Give your child an appropriate dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen, both effective pain relievers available in children's formulations, for his age and weight. Use the dropper or cup that comes with the medicine, and ask your doctor if you are unsure about the exact amount to give.

Apply a cold, wet washcloth to the outer ear area for 20 minutes to ease the pain while waiting for the medication to take effect. Some kids prefer a warm washcloth, so this is another option.

Drip three drops of olive oil or prescription ear drops into each ear, as long as your doctor approves, your child's eardrum has no hole and no tube has been placed in his ear by a doctor.

Encourage your child to sit up instead of lying down, since lying can cause middle-ear fluid to build up and sitting helps it drain.

Take your child to a pediatrician to determine the underlying cause of the earache and have it treated. A mild earache is not typically considered an emergency, so you can wait until regular business hours to bring your child to the doctor.

Ask the doctor about installing ear tubes to help drain your child's ear if he gets frequent or long-lasting ear infections.

Tips

An older child can try chewing gum to help relieve ear pressure and ease the pain of an ear infection. Breastfeeding can help young babies or nursing toddlers in the same way.

Warnings

Don't plug your child's ear with cotton, even if it is draining. Plugging the ear can trap pus inside and make the infection worse.

If the pain stops suddenly, this could indicate a ruptured eardrum. Report this to your child's doctor and stop administering ear drops immediately.

Call the doctor immediately if your child develops a fever over 104 degrees Fahrenheit, the pain does not lessen within two hours of taking medication or your child is acting very sick.

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