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What Causes Earaches?
The most common cause of earaches in children is blockage in the Eustachian tube, the passageway that goes between the middle ear and back of the throat. The middle ear sits just behind the eardrum and is a small, air-filled cavity that equalizes pressure between the middle and outer ear. The Eustachian tube drains fluids from the middle ear. When it becomes blocked, the air and fluid are not able to flow freely causing a pressure buildup that leads to pain.
When fluid in the middle ear becomes infected with bacteria or a virus it can cause pain accompanied by fever. Other causes of earaches are injury and inflammation of the ear canal, commonly known as swimmer's ear.
Symptoms of Earaches
Symptoms of earaches include feelings of pressure in the ear, hearing loss, fever, vertigo and drainage. In very young children the only symptoms may be irritability, green or yellow mucous in the nose, pulling the ear, or fever. If an eardrum ruptures due to a middle ear infection, there may be a sudden, temporary relief of pain.
Sometimes an earache is experienced as only pressure without significant pain. Pain and pressure with earaches may build up gradually or come on suddenly, depending on the cause. Pain may worsen when lying down as the fluid shifts.
Diagnosing Earaches in Children
Pressure or pain in the ear that is not accompanied by fever or hearing loss is usually not serious and doesn't require a trip to the doctor. It is usually the result of a blocked Eustachian tube. If ear pain is severe or accompanied by other symptoms like hearing loss, vertigo or fever, a health professional should be consulted.
The doctor will examine the ears, nose and throat using a lighted instrument called an Otoscope to check for redness, inflammation, signs of injury and fluid buildup behind the eardrum. The doctor may also check your hearing.
Help for Earache
Medication may be prescribed depending on the cause of the earache. If an infection is present, antibiotics will be given in addition to over-the-counter pain medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Decongestants and antihistamines are often used to treat blocked Eustachian tubes. Other pain relief techniques include laying on a warm heating pad or compress and ear drops to relieve pressure and promote drainage.
Chronic earaches and infections in children may be treated with tubes. A small tube is inserted through the eardrum to keep the ear free of fluid and infection.
Homeopathic remedies are also very effective for soothing inflammation and improving ear health and comfort in babies and young children.