Earache and pain
Earache and pain is common, particularly in young children. It’s not usually a sign of anything serious, but it can be painful.
Earache and pain may come and go and it can affect both ears at one time.
How to treat earache yourself
To help relieve the pain and discomfort:
- use painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen (children under 16 shouldn’t take aspirin)
- place a warm or cold flannel on the ear
- put anything inside your ear, such as cotton buds
- try to remove earwax
- let water get inside your ear
Your pharmacist can help with earaches
They can give advice and recommend treatments, such as eardrops.
See a GP if you have:
- a high temperature
- swelling around the ear
- fluid coming from the ear
- something stuck in the ear
- an earache for more than 3 days
- hearing loss or a change in hearing
- other symptoms, like vomiting or a severe sore throat
If you can’t get an appointment, contact 111 or go to a walk-in centre.
Spotting earache in babies and young children
A young child might have earache if they:
- rub or pull their ear
- don’t react to some sounds
- have a fever
- are irritable or restless
- are off their food
- keep losing their balance
How long it lasts
How long it lasts depends on what’s causing it. Most earaches in children are caused by an ear infection, and they usually start to feel better after a few days.
What causes earache and pain
Earache and pain can be caused by many things, but sometimes the cause isn’t known. Here are some of the most common causes:
- Ear pain with toothache
- Children teething
- Dental abscess
- Ear pain with change in hearing
- Glue ear
- Earwax build-up
- An object stuck in the ear – do not try to remove it yourself, see your GP
- Perforated eardrum – particularly after a loud noise or accident
- Ear pain with pain when swallowing
- Sore throat
- Ear pain with a fever
- Ear infection
If you can’t speak to your GP or don’t know what to do next.