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Understanding Outer Ear Problems

Children often get an earache. Specific treatment may or may not be needed. It's best to check with your health care provider. Ear pain can be caused by a problem outside or inside the ear or even someplace else, such as an infected throat. Usually, outer ear problems don't cause fever, but this isn't always the case. Use the checklist below to help you determine if the problem is with the outer ear.

Cutaway view of ear canal showing middle ear, eardrum, outer ear, and auricle

What are outer ear problems?

Outer ear problems occur in the area between the auricle (external part of the ear) and the eardrum (the thin sheet of tissue that passes sound waves between the outer and middle ear). These problems are often due to excess wax buildup or infection.

Image of woman comforting child

Signs of outer ear problems

It’s probably an outer ear problem if you can say yes to ANY of the following:

  • The child’s outer ear aches or feels blocked.

  • The pain gets worse when you wiggle the child’s ear.

  • The child went swimming recently, especially in water warmer than 80°F (26.6°C).

  • The child has recently been on an airplane or at a different elevation.


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