• Alternative Names

    Otalgia; Pain - ear; Ear pain

    Home Care

    The following steps may help an earache:

    • A cold pack or cold wet wash cloth applied to the outer ear for 20 minutes may reduce pain.
    • For children old enough to safely chew gum, chewing may help relieve the pain and pressure of an ear infection.
    • If a child is uncomfortable lying down, resting in an upright position can help reduce pressure in the middle ear.
    • Over-the-counter ear drops are gentle and effective, as long as the eardrum has not ruptured.
    • Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, can provide relief for children and adults with an earache. (Do NOT give aspirin to children.)

    You can relieve ear pain caused by rapidly descending from high altitudes by swallowing or chewing gum. Allowing infants to suck on a bottle while the plane is descending can help.

    Call your health care provider if

    Call your doctor if:

    • Your child has a high fever or severe pain or seems sicker than is usual for an ear infection
    • New symptoms appear, especially:
      • Dizziness
      • Severe headache
      • Swelling around the ear
      • Weakness of the face muscles
    • Severe pain suddenly stops; this may be a sign of a ruptured eardrum
    • Symptoms (pain, fever, or irritability) get worse or do not improve within 24 - 48 hours

    What to expect at your health care provider's office

    The doctor will do a physical examination, and examine the ear, nose, and throat areas.

    Pain, tenderness, or redness of the mastoid bone behind the ear on the skull is often a sign of a serious infection.