Skip to main content Help with accessibility Skip to main navigation

Earache

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 it lasts 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 one or both ears.

Do

  • Take 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.
  • Try to remove earwax.
  • Let water get inside your ear.

When should I seek medical help?

  • If you have earache for more than three days.

You or your child have earache and:

  • Become generally unwell
  • A very high temperature or feel hot and shivery
  • Swelling around the ear
  • Fluid coming from the ear
  • Hearing loss or a change in hearing
  • Something stuck in the ear
  • Your child is under 2 and has earache in both ears