Ear Infection

Child care: Management of external ear infections

Fact Checked

External ear infections usually involve the ear canal or outside side of the eardrum. The symptoms include an itchy or painful ear. It is recommended to consult a doctor if a child is suspected with any form of ear infection.

What are the causes?

Once a child has this type of ear infection, the coating of the ear canal on the outside side of the eardrum is infected. Children who often go on swimming develop external ear infections since water can remain in the ear after swimming and trigger irritation.

The infections can also occur if the ear canal is impaired after inserting cotton buds or scratching. A secondary bacterial infection or even one that is fungal in origin often arises once this occurs.

External ear infection
Once a child has an external ear infection, he/she might complain of a sore or itchy ear.

Children who have skin issues such as eczema or dermatitis are likely to develop external ear infections.


Once a child has an external ear infection, he/she might complain of a sore or itchy ear. Younger children might spend a lot of time scratching the ears.

The ears typically feel blocked and the child has difficulty hearing. Even chewing can oftentimes worsen the pain. Sometimes, there is bleeding or even drainage from the affected ear. The child might also have sore, swollen lymph glands around the ear and neck.

When to consult a doctor

  • Child complains of earache
  • Drainage from the ear
  • Child is generally sick with fever or vomiting
  • Child has recurrent episodes of external ear infections
  • Child has difficulty hearing

Management of external ear infections

For mild cases of external ear infections, the doctor will prescribe ear drops. These usually contain a combination of steroids and antibiotics. These are used for several days before the child has his/her ears checked again.

As for severe cases, the doctor might insert a thin gauze or wick into the ear. The wick is immersed in a solution of antibiotics and steroids.

While the child has the infection, avoid touching the ear. The ears should stay dry which means that he/she should not swim until the ear has completely healed. Additionally, paracetamol in the right dosage is given for pain relief.


If a child continues to develop external ear infections, it might be beneficial to apply drops into the ears after bathing or swimming. It is also recommended to use good-quality earplugs to prevent the condition. Additionally, avoid cleaning the ears using cotton buds.

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