Earaches often affect toddlers for a variety of reasons. Pinpointing the exact cause of the pain becomes more challenging if your toddler isn’t able to express himself verbally. Some toddlers lack the ability to express where the pain is located at all. Learning to spot the signs of toddler ear pain and what to do about it gets your child back on the road to recovery.
The Eustachian tube, a short, narrow tube connects the middle ear to the nasal passages. It allows fluids to drain from the middle ear and helps keep ear pressure equalized. The Eustachian tube can become inflamed and secretions can build up from colds and allergies; this can cause ear pain and infections. Sinus infections and sore throats can also sometimes cause pain in the ears. Other potential causes of ear pain at the toddler age include an object pushed into the ear, injury to the ear, high-altitude pressure changes or a ruptured eardrum.
If your toddler cannot verbalize his ear pain, he will show other signs in most cases. Watch your child closely for signs of ear infection if he has cold or allergy symptoms. Ear infections often include fever, fussiness, change in appetite and difficulty sleeping. Your toddler might pull on his ears or complain of ear pain. With a more severe infection, the eardrum can rupture and cause pus or other drainage from the ear. According to Ask Dr. Sears, these ruptured eardrums heal normally; in fact, the rupture might ease your child’s pain because of the release of pressure.
A trip to the doctor’s office confirms an infection if one is present. The doctor will examine your child’s ears to detect the presence of an infection. He might also examine your child’s nose and throat to look for other potential problems. Keep track of your toddler’s symptoms and when they began as the doctor will ask for this information.
Doctors choose to treat some ear infections with antibiotics, while others clear up on their own. Your child’s physician may wait 24 hours to see how the ear pain progresses. A washcloth cooled with water relieves some ear pain when placed on the ear. An over-the-counter pain reliever made for toddlers reduces the pain and associated fever if your child is uncomfortable. Over-the-counter ear drops are another option unless your toddler’s eardrum ruptured. Consult with your child’s physician before using over-the-counter medications to avoid potential complications.
Some toddlers are more susceptible to ear infections and experience frequent ear pain. A baby exposed to cigarette smoke might have more ear infections, according to MedlinePlus. Limit your child’s exposure to smoke and keep allergies under control to prevent progression to an ear infection. Ear tubes are an option for some toddlers who experience recurrent ear infections. The tubes allow the ear to drain and function properly for fewer ear infections.