Ear Infections (Child)

Ear infections in children are common and may affect the outer or inner ear.


Otitis externa is an infection of the lining of the ear canal (the outer ear). It can occur when water in the ear irritates the lining of the ear canal, which then develops a secondary bacterial or fungal infection. 

Otitis media is an infection of the middle ear (behind the eardrum). 

Ear Infection Symptoms in Kids 

If your child has an outer-ear infection, he/she may complain of ear pain, itching, difficulty hearing or a blocked ear. There may also be ear discharge. 

If the problem is a middle-ear infection, your child may have a fever, headache, nausea or vomiting and may feel irritable, drowsy and lose his/her appetite. There could be ear pain and difficulty in hearing. Young children may pull their ear or poke their fingers inside. Sometimes, the eardrum may rupture, causing a thick and sometimes bloody ear discharge. The perforated eardrum usually heals naturally.

Otitis Media (OME)

Some children have recurrent middle-ear infections and this can lead to otitis media, also known as “glue ear”, in which there is thick fluid in the ear. It usually occurs due to the malfunction of the Eustachian tubes, which connect the middle ear to the back of the nose which allows ventilation and proper function of the middle-ear mechanism. 

Young children are more prone to this as these are shorter and softer in young children and some 60 percent of children have at least one episode by the age of six. It frequently resolves itself, but may take up to three months  and can cause a child to have difficulty in hearing and result in speech, language and other developmental delays as well as behavioural problems like poor attention.

How Do Kids Get Ear Infections?

Ear infections in kids are most common for those below three years old. Children with weak immune systems are also more likely to get ear infections than healthy children. Family history also plays a part; a child is more likely to have recurrent middle-ear infections if a parent or sibling also suffered from them.

Other risk factors include recurrent colds and upper respiratory infections, and exposure to cigarette smoke. Being in a childcare centre with other children also increases the risk as viruses can spread quickly among children, causing colds that could lead to ear infections. 


Keep your child away from sick children. Have him/her vaccinated with the appropriate vaccines, such as pneumococcal and haemophilus vaccines, to prevent pneumonia and meningitis, and reduce the risk of ear infections. Keep the ear dry. Avoid swimming and touching the ear.

When to Seek Help

You should take your child to see a doctor at the first sign of a possible ear infection so treatment can start promptly.

Ear Infection Medicine for Kids

The doctor may give your child eardrops if he or she has an outer-ear infection. For middle-ear infection, a course of antibiotics is usually given together with medication to ease the child’s pain and fever. For children with glue ear, tubes (grommets) may be inserted to prevent fluid from accumulating in the middle ear; this helps to restore the child’s hearing. If your child has had recurrent ear infections, he or she may need a hearing test.

Visit Parent Hub, for more useful tips and guides to give your child a healthy start.

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