There is nothing worse than being awoken in the middle of the night by a young child screaming with ear pain. The pain is usually due to inflammation of the eardrum or pressure behind the eardrum. Occasionally, the pain could be due to a sore throat, jaw pain, teething, or a swimmer’s ear.
Typically, an upper respiratory infection is the culprit of the ear pain. The cold can cause pressure to accumulate behind the eardrum, similar to the times when you fly on an airplane and you have to “pop” your eardrum. Sometimes fluid can accumulate behind the eardrum, also resulting in pain and discomfort. Ear pain from pressure is usually worse at night and improves as the day goes on.
For ear pain in the middle of the night, use a good pain reliever. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil/Motrin) at the proper doses (see our fever handout) will improve pain within 30-60 minutes. Some studies have shown that ibuprofen is better for ear pain than acetaminophen.
Call our office during regular office hours if your child needs to be seen. We cannot prescribe antibiotics over the phone.
Reasons to call the doctor immediately:
- If you think that your child is acting sicker than you would expect simply from an ear infection.