Earache or ear pain is quite common, especially earache in children. It usually isn’t anything to worry about. You can have it in one or both ears and it might just be a mild, dull ache, or more of a sharp, intense pain.
Causes of earache
Earache can happen for a number of reasons, and can be a common symptom of ear conditions like:
Ear infections are probably the most common cause or earache and ear pain, and common types include:
- Ear canal infection (otitis externa) – when the skin in the ear canal becomes inflamed.
- Middle ear infection – affects the area behind the eardrum and is very common in children.
- Swimmer’s ear – a type of ear infection typically caused by trapped water in the ear.
Glue ear happens when the normally air-filled space in the middle ear fills with fluid.
Common symptoms of this condition include temporary hearing loss and earache from the pressure of the fluid build-up. Learn more.
If you’ve ever had ear pain when flying, this can be as a result of what’s known as ear barotrauma.
This happens when changes in the air pressure block or constrict the tiny tubes found behind the eardrum (Eustachian tubes). Learn more.
Sometimes the earwax we naturally produce builds up and can become impacted in the ear. This can cause earache or pain until it is safely removed. It’s important that you don’t try to remove earwax yourself, as you could damage your eardrum. Learn more.
If you have a sort throat, tonsillitis or quinsy (an abscess at the back of the throat), you may have ear pain when swallowing.
Sometimes earache or ear pain can be caused by a problem with your jaw bone (called temporomandibular joint syndrome), like if you have arthritis or you grind your teeth.
Earache in children might occur due to teething or a dental abscess, which is an infection leading to pus buildup in the teeth or gums.
You might have experienced some mild earache after you’ve been outdoors on a cold and windy day. This will improve on its own after you’ve warmed up a bit.
How to get rid of ear pain
Treatment for ear pain isn’t always necessary, and it can go away on its own after a few minutes, hours or days. In the meantime, there are some things you can try at home to make the pain feel better:
- Take over-the-counter pain relievers as recommended
- Apply a warm or cold compress to the affected ear
- Try sleeping propped up against some pillows rather than lying completely straight or on one side
- When you’re flying, try chewing gum or sucking on a sweet during take-off and landing when the air pressure change affects you the most
- If your earache or pain is ever bothering you, it’s best to go and see your pharmacist or GP for advice on how best to treat it.
They’ll be able to identify the cause of the pain and might suggest taking a course of antibiotics in order to clear an infection, or some other methods to make you feel more comfortable.
Earache in children
Young children tend to be more prone to earache or ear pain.
Earaches in children can be more common because the size and position of their Eustachian tubes mean that they’re more likely to develop ear infections. Earache can also be a common development or symptom of a cold.
You should go and see your GP if your child’s earache lasts more than three days, they have a fever or they’re feeling sick with it, or if their ear(s) is swollen or has any fluid coming from it.
Diagnosing earache in children
Earache in children or ear pain is very common, especially if they’ve recently had a cold. When they’re a bit too young to tell you what’s wrong, there are some key signs you can look out for:
- Rubbing or pulling on their ear
- High temperature or fever
- Restlessness and trouble sleeping
- Trouble hearing certain sounds