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Ear pain in children is commonly caused by infection. This may be a virus or bacteria. It commonly occurs after a cold. In younger children that can’t express their symptoms, ear tugging may be noted. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fevers, low appetite, being fussy can also be signs and symptoms of an ear infection. In adults, ear pain from infection is less common but is a possibility. Most ear infections will need to be treated with antibiotics for a certain amount of time, usually 7 to 10 days. Some infections also require antibiotic drops that go into the outer ear canal for approximately the same amount of duration. 

When ear infection is not the cause of ear pain, other issues as in temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain are explored. This is pain from jaw muscles being strained from grinding teeth at night. Other causes of TMJ pain may be stress. 

Ear pain can also be secondary to an excess of wax in the ears. Most people still use q-tips or cotton swabs to clean the ears. This in fact pushes any ear wax further into the ear canal and can actually break the eardrum or the tympanic membrane. Never clean the ears with swabs, instead, use a hair dryer after showering and dry the outer ear to ensure the ears are not wet. 

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if: 

  • You have new or worse symptoms of infection, such as: 

○ Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness. 

○ Red streaks leading from the area. 

○ Pus draining from the area. 

○ A fever. 

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