When an infant appears to experience itchiness or pulls on his/her ears, it is possible that it is an indication of pain in the area. Infants below a year old are not able to locate the ear pain or know whether it originates from the external structures of the ear, close to the ear or within the ear. Monitoring for other indications can help determine if the infant has an infection or simply playing with his/her ears.
Tugging, pulling, poking or itchiness on the exterior ear can be an indication of swimmer’s ear or otitis externa. Always bear in mind that swimmer’s ear is an infection that affects the outer ear canal that develops once water is trapped in the ear canal during baths or showers.
The protective skin that lines the canal is eroded which makes it a suitable area for bacterial growth. Other indications of swimmer’s ear include yellowish, watery or foul discharge along with redness, swelling and scaling.
Infants can scratch, pat or pull on their ears as a response to teething. The reason for this is that the infant mistakes the pain from the swelling gums as ear pain. Other indications that an infant is teething include chewing on objects, drooling and fussiness. Oftentimes, a teething infant can also experience mild fever but it does not usually exceed more than 101 degrees F.
Ear infection or otitis media can also urge the infant to scratch and pull on his/her ear. An ear infection is quite common among children from 6 months to 3 years of age with cold-like symptoms such as fussiness, runny nose, fever, ear pain, sleeping problems, yellowish ear drainage and hearing loss. In addition, the infant might cry more than usual during feeding since the swallowing and sucking can cause painful pressure changes in the ear.
A doctor should be consulted as soon as possible if the infant appears sick and has fever over 104 degrees F or if the infant is less than 12 weeks old with fever of 100.4 degrees or higher.
It is best to schedule an appointment with a doctor if you are uncertain about the seriousness of the ear symptoms. You can relieve the ear pain using ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Just make sure that the instructions are carefully read for the dosage and age appropriateness.
There are also several home remedies that can be used. You can also apply a warm compress over the affected ear or administer warm garlic, olive or vegetable oil or even anesthetic ear drops into the ear to relieve ear pain. In addition, you have to keep the ears dry to avoid the development of swimmer’s ear.