What are the Signs of Ear Infections in Children?

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  • Written By: Dee S.
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 01 November 2018
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Pediatricians routinely diagnose and treat ear infections in children. Many times, children experience tell-tale signs of an ear infection long before they are seen by their doctor. Children who have had colds or severe allergies and then complain of ear pain or pressure often have an ear infection. Other signs of ear infections in children include fever, fussiness, and sleeplessness. If the infection is severe, the eardrum may rupture, causing pus and other fluids to drain out of the ear.

Sometimes the symptoms associated with ear infections in children vary based on the age of the child. An older child can better communicate her symptoms, while young children may only be able to fuss. Another sign, particularly for a young child, is sleeplessness. If a child typically sleeps well at night, then suddenly becomes fussy, waking up several times through the night, it may be a sign of an ear infection.

Fevers may be indicative of ear infections in children, as well. Some children experience a low fever, while others have a higher fever. In some cases, the child may have other symptoms, but no fever.


Often, children with lingering cold or allergy symptoms have ear infections. The tube connection the nose and the middle ear, called the Eustachian tube, may have a build-up of fluid resulting from the cold or allergies that does not drain. When the fluid sits in the tube and in the ear, it can lead to ear infections.

Other signs of ear infections in children include hearing issues. For example, the child may not be responsive to quiet noises. In addition, the child may speak louder than normal.

Many children with ear infections also complain of pressure in the ear. Young children, who cannot communicate the pain associated with the pressure, may pull at their ear. The pressure may be present throughout the day, or it may only be noticeable when the child lies down, chews, or swallows.

If the pressure in the ear becomes extreme, the eardrum may rupture. Then, all the fluid will drain from the ear. At that time, the pressure will be relieved, although the child should still visit a doctor to have the infection treated.

Typically, a doctor will be able to see any signs of inflammation or infection inside the ear. The eardrum may appear red or bright pink when an infection is present. Antibiotics will usually be prescribed for ear infections in children. In addition, many doctors may want to follow-up with the child to make sure the infection is no longer present.



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