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Ear Infection In Children


An ear infection is also called otitis media. Your child may have an ear infection in one or both ears. Your child may get an ear infection when his or her eustachian tubes become swollen or blocked. Eustachian tubes drain fluid away from the middle ear. Your child may have a buildup of fluid and pressure in his or her ear when he or she has an ear infection. The ear may become infected by germs. The germs grow easily in fluid trapped behind the eardrum.

Ear Anatomy


Return to the emergency department if:

  • You see blood or pus draining from your child's ear.
  • Your child seems confused or cannot stay awake.
  • Your child has a stiff neck, headache, and a fever.

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child is still not eating or drinking 24 hours after he or she takes medicine.
  • Your child has pain behind his or her ear or when you move the earlobe.
  • Your child's ear is sticking out from his or her head.
  • Your child still has signs and symptoms of an ear infection 48 hours after he or she takes medicine.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.


  • Medicines may be given to decrease your child's pain or fever, or to treat an infection caused by bacteria.
  • Do not give aspirin to children under 18 years of age. Your child could develop Reye syndrome if he takes aspirin. Reye syndrome can cause life-threatening brain and liver damage. Check your child's medicine labels for aspirin, salicylates, or oil of wintergreen.
  • Give your child's medicine as directed. Contact your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him or her if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Care for your child at home:

  • Prop your older child's head and chest up while he or she sleeps. This may decrease ear pressure and pain. Ask your child's healthcare provider how to safely prop your child's head and chest up.
  • Have your child lie with his or her infected ear facing down to allow fluid to drain from the ear.
  • Use ice or heat to help decrease your child's ear pain. Ask which of these is best for your child, and use as directed.
  • Ask about ways to keep water out of your child's ears when he or she bathes or swims.

Prevent an ear infection:

  • Wash your and your child's hands often to help prevent the spread of germs. Ask everyone in your house to wash their hands with soap and water. Ask them to wash after they use the bathroom or change a diaper. Remind them to wash before they prepare or eat food.
  • Keep your child away from people who are ill, such as sick playmates. Germs spread easily and quickly in daycare centers.
  • If possible, breastfeed your baby. Your baby may be less likely to get an ear infection if he or she is breastfed.
  • Do not give your child a bottle while he or she is lying down. This may cause liquid from the sinuses to leak into his or her eustachian tube.
  • Keep your child away from people who smoke.
  • Vaccinate your child. Ask your child's healthcare provider about the shots your child needs.

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your child's visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.