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Ear problems

A baby’s ears need to be treated with care

Ear infections, which can result in earache are common in babies and toddlers. They often follow a cold and can sometimes cause a temperature. A child may pull at their ear, but babies often cannot tell where their pain is coming from, so they just cry and seem generally uncomfortable.

Babies have some natural protection against infections in the first few weeks - this is boosted by breastfeeding. In babies and toddlers, bacteria pass from the nose to the ears more easily. Ear infections can be painful and your child may just need extra cuddles and painkillers from the Pharmacist. Your child may have swollen glands in their neck - this is the body’s way of fighting infection.

Children who live in households where people smoke (passive smoking) or who have a lot of contact with other children, like those who go to nursery, are more likely to get ear infections. Speak to your Health Visitor about safely cleaning your baby’s ears as they can be easily damaged.

Health Visitor’s tips

What are the signs of an ear infection?

The signs are a raised temperature, general irritability and pain or discomfort. The ears may be red and your baby may pull them because they are uncomfortable. They may even have a pus-like discharge, which can also be associated with a blocked feeling in the ear or hearing loss. Although most ear infections settle down without any serious effects, there can be mild hearing loss for a short time (two to three weeks).


My toddler has earache but seems otherwise well.


Have you tried infant paracetamol or ibuprofen from your Pharmacist? Do not put oil or cotton buds into your child’s ears.


Most ear infections get better by themselves. Speak to a GP if no improvement with painkillers, or temperature remains raised after 2 days, your child seems in a lot of pain or you notice fluid coming from the ear.

Source: DoH Birth to five edition 2009.