Earache and ear pain is common, particularly in young children. It can be painful, but is not usually a sign of anything serious.
How long earache lasts
It depends on what's causing it. Most earaches in children are caused by an ear infection, which usually start to improve after a few days.
A young child might have earache if they:
- rub or pull their ear
- do not react to some sounds
- have a temperature of 38C or above
- are irritable or restless
- are off their food
- keep losing their balance
Earache and ear pain can affect 1 or both ears.
There are some things you can do to help relieve earache and ear pain.
- use painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen (children under 16 should not take aspirin)
- place a warm or cold flannel on the ear
- do not put anything inside your ear, such as cotton buds
- do not try to remove earwax
- do not let water get inside your ear
A pharmacist might be able to tell you:
- what you can do to treat earache yourself
- if you can buy anything to help (for example, eardrops)
- if you need to see a GP
See a GP if you or your child:
- have earache for more than 3 days
- keep getting earache
Earache and pain can be caused by many things, but sometimes it's not known by what.
Here are some of the most common causes:
|Ear pain with toothache||Children teething, dental abscess|
|Ear pain with change in hearing||Glue ear, earwax build-up, an object stuck in the ear (do not try to remove it yourself – see a GP), perforated eardrum (particularly after a loud noise or accident)|
|Ear pain with pain when swallowing||Sore throat, tonsillitis, quinsy (a complication of tonsillitis)|
|Ear pain with a fever||Ear infection, flu, cold|