Ear pain in children

Ear pain is one of the most common complaints of childhood. Referred to as otalgia by the medical community, ear pain can be caused by many disorders of the head and neck, even though ear infection is the most common etiology. Understanding some of the causes of ear pain, will help you understand what to look for when ear pain occurs in your child, when to call the pediatrician and how to help your child feel better when ear pain occurs.

Causes of ear pain

Ear pain can occur from any disorder of the head and neck in a child. The most common cause of ear pain is a middle ear infection or swimmer’s ear, an infection of the ear canal. Other common causes of ear pain common in children include trauma to the ear canal such as scratches, foreign bodies in the ear canal including toys and insects, referred pain from infections in the mouth or neck, and fluid in the middle ear.

Evaluation of ear pain

When a child has ear pain, a pediatrician will take a careful history with the parents and with the child, if a child is old enough to contribute to the history. The history will help the pediatrician determine if there are any symptoms of ear infection, dental issues, possible foreign body or trauma to the head and neck area. In other words, the history gives clues to the pediatrician for the causes of the ear pain.

After the history, the pediatrician does a careful examination of the child that includes the head and neck and any other areas of the body that the pediatrician feels are important to the care of the child. The examine may be very focused if the child has simple ear canal trauma or a foreign body or be much more complete if the child has fever and is sick.