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:

Do

  • use painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen (children under 16 shouldn’t take aspirin)
  • place a warm or cold flannel on the ear

Don’t

  • 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
Tonsillitis
Quinsy
Ear pain with a fever
Ear infection
Flu
Cold

Call 111

If you can’t speak to your GP or don’t know what to do next.