A number of pain relievers are available to help relieve symptoms.
- Either acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) is the pain-reliever of choice for children.
- Older children may be able to take prescription pain relievers that contain codeine if the pain is severe.
- Eardrops containing anesthetics (Auralgan) are also available by prescription. Auralgan provides short-acting pain relief and may help children endure ear discomfort until an oral pain reliever takes effect. Parents should check with a doctor before using them. Eardrops could cause damage in children who have a ruptured eardrum. This might be indicated by fluid drainage from the ear canal.
Note: Aspirin and aspirin-containing products are not recommended for children or adolescents. Reye syndrome, a very serious condition, is associated with aspirin use in children who have chickenpox or flu.
Cold and Allergy Remedies
Many non-prescription products are available that combine antihistamines, decongestants, and other ingredients, and some are advertised as cold remedies for children. Researchers have found little or no benefits for acute otitis media or for otitis media with effusion using decongestants (either oral or nasal sprays or drops), antihistamines, or combination products. Their use is not recommended for AOM or OME.
Recent research has questioned the general safety of cough and cold products for children. They are currently banned for use in children under age 4 years. The American College of Chest Physicians recommends against the use of nonprescription cough and cold medicines in children age 14 years and younger.
Precautions when Swimming
Swimming can pose specific risks for children with current ear infections or previous surgery. Water pollutants or chemicals may exacerbate the infection, and underwater swimming causes pressure changes that can cause pain. The following precautions should be taken:
- Children with ruptured acute otitis media (drainage from ear canal) should not go swimming until their infections are completely cured.
- Children with AOM that is not ruptured should not dive or swim underwater.
- Some doctors recommend that children with implanted ear tubes should use earplugs or cotton balls coated in petroleum jelly when swimming to prevent infection. Others say earplugs are only necessary if the child will be diving underwater. Parents should consult their child's doctor.
Review Date: 05/03/2011
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.