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Ear Infections - Home Care

How to Monitor Ears at Home

For common ear problems, probably the best that you can do for your child is to be patient, wait out the problem, and treat the pain. You can help your medical provider by becoming a careful observer and examining your child's ears at home.  Here are some things you can do and observe:
Girl's Ear Exam 12/16

If your child has sharp or intense ear pain, treat the pain with pain relievers but not aspirin (which can lead to complications in children).  Also avoid antihistamines. Doctors recommend acetaminophen (Panadol, Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) as a way to both treat pain and reduce fever.  Check the bottle for children's dosage.  Once you have the pain under control you can think about other things to do. As it turns out, doing nothing has advantages.


Research suggests that watching and waiting is the best course of action for many ear infections. With a healthy immune system, most ear infections (up to 80%) are self resolving.  Even ruptured eardrums grow back.

You can watch symptoms of an infection (if there is one) get worse or improve with an EARscope, and as you gain experience you will learn what looks normal and what doesn't. Often kids put beads, food, sand, etc. in ears and a quick check will tell you if the ear canal is clear.

With experience you can learn to notice small changes to the canal and drum, and since you have constant access to your child's ears you will know what appears normal. But ears can fool you. Crying can cause ear drums to be red without an infection, and many times middle ear fluid behind the ear drum is difficult to see. Have your provider show you what to look for, or see the very good color pictures in Dr. Moser's book, Ears, an Owner's Manual. Regular monitoring of ears at home will give you a continuing progress report, something even your doctor won't have.


How long you wait depends on what you see in the ear canal along with other symptoms. Current literature suggests three or four days of watchful waiting to give the body's own defenses a chance to fight the infection. If there has been no improvement by then (normal-appearing ear drum, lowered fever) antibiotics might be your best choice. A common practice is to get a prescription, have it in hand, but use it (only if necessary) after watching and waiting to see what happens.


There are rare, but serious, complications of ear infections.  What might seem like a simple ear infection could be more serious. You should be in touch with your medical provider while monitoring your child's ears. We suggest that you find a medical provider who is willing to work cooperatively with you. If you use an EARscope ask your provider to show you what to look for.


Foods and allergies can cause mucus buildup in the nose, throat, and possibly the Eustachian tubes.  Milk allergy is one of the most common. If your child battles frequent colds, you might consider allergy testing.


Each EARscope comes with an illustrated instruction booklet on how to use it and what to look for. Practice on adult ears first. Once you feel comfortable looking into adult ears, try it with your child. Be sure to look first at the "well' ear, rather than the painful one. This will give you a comparison and also show the child that you are not causing pain. A more detailed discussion of ear exams is in Dr. Moser's illustrated book, EARS, An Owner's Manual.

Note:  We are not doctors so cannot offer you medical advice.  Your best course of action is to work in close partnership with medically trained individuals who support home ear care.


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