When a child wakes in the middle of the night due to extreme ear pain, parents may feel as though they are helpless in determining the cause, let alone providing relief. If your child does wake in the middle of the night complaining of ear pain, there are things you can do to hold them over until the doctor’s office opens in the morning.
Causes of Ear Pain at Night
The common causes for ear pain that comes on in the middle of the night include:
- Middle ear infection
- Swimmer’s ear
- Common cold – without an ear infection
- Referred pain from another area, such as an infected tooth or sore throat
Should You Call the Doctor or Take Your Child to the Emergency Room?
Ear pain will cause everyone in the house to have a sleepless night. However, not all ear pains require immediate medical attention. No matter what, do not give your child antibiotics until they are seen by a doctor. Ear pain does not always mean an infection, and giving them unnecessary antibiotics could lead to more issues.
You should contact your physician immediately or take your child into the emergency room if:
- There was a history of a penetrating ear injury – your child had something lodged in his or her ear earlier that day.
- The child is also complaining of a stiff neck and they cannot touch their chin to their chest. This is a sign of meningitis.
- You notice redness, swelling or tenderness over the bones that are behind the ear as well as on the exterior of the skin.
- Your child has a persistent temperature that remains over 104 degrees Fahrenheit and it will not go down even with administering Tylenol.
- Your child’s ear pain is constant and they are acting very sick – or you can tell something is seriously wrong.
Tips for Getting Through the Night
To help your child get through the night and until you can call their physician, there are a few things you can do, including:
- Make your child comfortable by giving them the appropriate dose of a child’s over-the-counter pain reliever – such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
- Add warmth to the outside of the ear and see if that provides them with comfort. You can do so with a warm washcloth or by using a heating pad on low. Monitor your child while using the heating pad.
- Have your child sleep with the sore ear facing upward and keep their head elevated.
- Have your child drink plenty of fluids or chew gum to help swallow, which may open the Eustachian tube and drain excess fluid from the middle ear.
Contact an ENT
If your child has severe ear pain, contact ENT Dr. Light. An ENT can not only help your child’s current ear infection, but uncover the source of recurring ear infections. Schedule your appointment now.