Understanding and Managing Ear Infections in Children: Do’s and Don’ts

Ear Infections in Children 1

Ear infections are a common health concern in children, often causing discomfort and pain. There are two types of ear infections that can occur in children: external ear infections (otitis externa) and middle ear infections (otitis media). Understanding the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and do’s and don’ts can help parents effectively manage ear infections in their children.

Causes: External ear infections in children can be caused by furuncles or boils in the external ear canal, often resulting from misguided attempts to clean the ear with earbuds or fingernails. Swimmer’s ear, caused by a fungus that accumulates in the external ear, can also be a common cause of external ear infections in children, especially after swimming in non-treated waters like lakes and ponds. Impacted wax, which can become dry and hard and may be secondarily infected, can also cause ear infections in children.

Middle ear infections in children are often triggered by upper respiratory tract infections, such as sore throats, tonsillitis, or colds. The Eustachian Tube, which connects the middle ear to the upper respiratory tract, is shorter and wider in children, making them more susceptible to infections in the middle ear.

Symptoms: Symptoms of ear infections in children may include ear pain, discomfort, pressure, and even hearing loss. Children may also experience fever, irritability, fussiness, difficulty sleeping, pulling or tugging at the ears, and changes in appetite or behavior. In some cases, the eardrum may rupture, leading to visible pus in the external ear canal and immediate cessation of pain.

Diagnosis: A proper diagnosis of ear infections in children is typically made by a healthcare professional who will perform a physical examination of the ear using an otoscope to visualize the external and middle ear. Medical history, symptoms, and other relevant factors will also be considered in the diagnosis. In some cases, further tests may be needed, such as a middle ear fluid analysis or a tympanometry, which measures the movement of the eardrum in response to changes in air pressure.

Treatment: The management of ear infections in children may involve conservative measures such as pain medication, mucolytics, intranasal steroids, and steam inhalation. Antibiotics may be prescribed in certain cases, following specific protocols, and should only be used as directed by a healthcare provider. In cases of external ear infections caused by furuncles or boils, ear packing to reduce pain and swelling, local antibacterial cream, and analgesics may be recommended. Swimmer’s ear caused by fungus may be treated with cleaning the ear and applying antifungal drops. Impacted wax may require proper cleaning and management to alleviate the pain and discomfort associated with the infection. It’s important for parents to follow the recommended treatment plan provided by their healthcare provider and communicate any changes or concerns.


  1. Seek proper medical guidance from a healthcare professional for the management of ear infections in children.
  2. Keep ears clean by gently wiping the outer ear with a soft cloth, avoiding the use of earbuds or other objects that may push wax further into the ear canal.
  3. Follow recommended treatment plans provided by healthcare providers, including proper use of medications such as pain relievers or antibiotics as prescribed.
  4. Ensure that children swim in treated water, such as in pools, which are generally safer compared to river or lake water, as they are maintained at appropriate pH levels and contain chlorine to minimize the risk of infection.


  1. Do not use earbuds or any other objects to clean a child’s ears, as this can push wax further into the ear canal, cause injury, or worsen the condition.
  2. Avoid instilling oil or any other substances in a child’s ear without proper medical guidance, as it may not effectively address the underlying issue and could potentially cause further complications.
  3. Do not start antibiotics for a suspected ear infection in a child without proper medical advice. Antibiotics should be prescribed by a healthcare professional based on a thorough evaluation of the child.

Remember, proper management of ear infections in children should always be done under the guidance of a well experienced ENT Doctor . Following these do’s and don’ts can help prevent complications and promote effective treatment for children with ear infections.