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Last Updated: Mar 30, 2023

Ear Pain In Children - What Causes It?

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Dr. Honey GuptaENT Specialist • 17 Years Exp.MBBS, DLO
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Ear pain is also called as an earache or otalgia. The pain may be associated with fever, malaise, sore throat etc. Sometimes, a patient can indulge in rubbing ears or pulling of ears rather than directly complaining about the pain.

Ear pain may be caused by primary affections of the ear, or it may be caused by secondary affections of other parts which can cause referred pain.

What are the primary causes of ear pain?

Following are the most common causes of ear pain in small children:

  1. Infection of the ears: An infection of the middle ear, especially the eardrum, is the most common cause. An infection from the nasal passage can be transmitted to the ear via Eustachian tube. It usually occurs in winter as infections are common during winters.
  2. Due to swimming: Most children who are swimmers land up with an ear infection, as water from the pool enters the ear canal. The entry introduces an infection in the ear cavity that presents with ear pain.
  3. Due to an injury to the ear canal: An injury to the ear canal can occur either because of a cotton swab, a fingernail, or a pin which can lead to ear pain.
  4. Due to abscess formation in the ear canal: An abscess can be formed in the ear due to infection, and it can cause severe throbbing pain in children.
  5. Due to an accumulation of earwax: Excessive accumulation of earwax in the ear is one of the most common reasons for ear pain in children. It usually causes mild ear pain.
  6. Due to blockage of the ear canal by foreign objects: Small children usually put small objects, such as a ball, in the ear canal. Due to it, children may complain mild-to-moderate pain.
  7. Due to blockage of the ear while traveling in the airplane: Sometimes, the ear tube gets blocked due to sudden increases in air pressure and causes stretching of the eardrum, ultimately leading to ear pain.

What are the secondary causes of ear pain in children?

Following are the most common causes of ear pain in small children:

  1. Dental pain referring to the ear: The pain can occur during dentition or due to dental caries in the children due to a common nerve supply.
  2. Due to infection of another gland, such as the parotid gland: Sometimes, mumps, parotitis can be associated with ear pain as the parotid gland is present in front of the ear.
  3. Due to disorders of the temporomandibular joint In this condition, ear pain can occur while opening the mouth, chewing, etc.
  4. Other illnesses that can cause referred ear pain include lymphadenopathy, lymphadenitis, or an injury to the spine.

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