Ear infections can affect people of all ages but are extremely common in babies and young children. Why? Their immune systems aren’t fully developed, which means they’re less equipped to fight off infections. And their Eustachian tubes (small passageways that connect the throat to the middle ear) are smaller and more horizontal, which makes it harder for fluid to drain out of the ear.
According to the National Institutes of Health, 5 out of 6 children will experience an ear infection before their third birthday. Diagnosing an ear infection in babies and young children can be frustrating because they can’t always communicate how they feel. If you think your young child has an ear infection, look for the following clues:
- Tugging or pulling on the ear
- Increased crying and irritability
- Difficulty sleeping
- Fever (especially in young children)
- Fluid draining from the ear
- Difficulty hearing or responding to auditory cues
When your child isn’t feeling well, you want to take care of them, but you may be wondering, “Do ear infections go away on their own?” The good news is most ear infections do go away on their own without medical intervention.
How to safely ease ear infection pain at home
While at-home care can’t cure ear infections, there are a few things you can do to help alleviate the pain and discomfort they cause, such as:
- Apply a cool or warm compress
Alternate cool and warm compresses at 10-minute intervals to help reduce pain and inflammation. If you find one temperature works better than the other, just use that one.
- Try over-the-counter pain relievers
Acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen can often relieve the pain associated with an ear infection. Follow the dosing instructions on the label. For children younger than 2 years, check with your doctor first to find out which medication and dose are safe.
- Elevate the head for sleeping
Resting or laying with the head in an elevated position can help fluid drain out of the ear. This helps alleviate pressure and pain in the middle ear, where most ear infections occur. For young children and infants, elevate their mattress using a rolled-up towel; do not place a pillow or towel directly under their head.
- Stay hydrated
Drinking plenty of water is a good health habit, but it’s particularly important when trying to ease your or your child’s symptoms of an ear infection. Not only does the extra hydration help thin the mucus inside the ear, but repeated swallowing also helps clear fluids from the Eustachian tubes and alleviate pressure.
When to visit your pediatrician or local urgent care
Ear pain often goes away on its own within 2-3 days. However, it’s important to watch for these signs and symptoms as they could be a sign of something more serious:
- Fluid (e.g., pus or blood) draining from the ear
- High fever (102 degrees F or higher), headache, or dizziness
- Swelling behind the ear, especially if that side of the face feels weak or numb
- Severe pain that suddenly stops (which could indicate a ruptured eardrum)
- Symptoms persist or worsen
- Hearing loss
- Other symptoms that are severe or concerning
If your child is younger than 6 months and symptoms do not go away within 1-2 days, or if they have a fever, call your doctor or visit your local urgent care facility.
State Urgent Care offers safe, effective ear infection treatment for people of all ages, including infants and young children. We will examine your ears with special instruments that measure fluid buildup, test the movement of the eardrum, and prescribe the appropriate type and dose of medication to provide relief in a hurry.
We welcome walk-in appointments 7 days a week.