Home » Guide to the Wise Use of Antibiotics » Ear Ache

Ear Ache

A special tube called the Eustachian tube connects the middle ear and the back of the throat.  The tube is narrow in young children so it can become blocked, especially with a cold.  This blockage can lead to an infection. Some ear infections are due to viruses and some are due to bacteria.  Antibiotics might be prescribed for an ear infection, but 70-80% of children who have an ear infection will get better without an antibiotic.

Prevention:

  • Wash your hands frequently and teach your child about handwashing since most ear infections occur after a cold.
  • Avoid exposing your child to second hand smoke.
  • Limit exposure to irritating substances.
  • Do not give your child a bottle to drink while lying down.

Symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Ear pain
  • Irritability

Treatment:

  • Place a warm cloth over the outside of the ear.
  • Antihistamines and decongestants do not help an ear infection.
  • Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics after examination of your child’s ears.
  • If your child has had many ear infections within a short period, your doctor may recommend surgery to put tubes in the ears to help the ears to drain.
  • Because of the risk of antibiotic resistance, it is no longer recommended to give antibiotics for prolonged periods to prevent ear infections.
  • For further information on Fever, please see More Fever Links.

When to seek medical attention:

Children:  See your doctor if your child. . .

  • Is less than 6 months of age
  • Is between 6 and 24 months of age and is not getting better after 24 hours
  • Is over 2 years of age and is not getting better after 3 days
  • Has a loss of balance
  • Has swelling and redness behind the ear


When to Worry about your child

Go to the emergency department if your child has any of the following symptoms:

  • Trouble breathing not caused by a stuffy nose
  • Blue lips
  • Limp or unable to move
  • Hard to wake up, unusually quiet or unresponsive
  • Stiff neck
  • Seems confused
  • Seizure