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What is an earache?

An earache, known as Acute Otitis Media, is characterised by an infection in the middle ear, resulting in inflammation (redness and swelling) and fluid build up behind the eardrum.

While middle ear infections can affect anyone, they are most prevalent in infants aged between six and 15 months, with approximately one in four children experiencing at least one episode by the age of ten.

Typically, earaches resolve on their own within three to five days without requiring medical intervention. Pain relievers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen can be utilised to alleviate discomfort or fever in both adults and children.

What are the symptoms of an earache?

Symptoms of an earache can include:

  • Elevated body temperature (fever)
  • Fatigue or reduced energy levels
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Mild hearing impairment

Younger children may have difficulty communicating their discomfort. Indications that might indicate an ear infection include:

  • Pulling, tugging, or touching their ear
  • Irritability, difficulty feeding, or restlessness during night time
  • Coughing or having a runny nose
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Lack of responsiveness to low-volume sounds
  • Impaired balance

Antibiotics are typically unnecessary unless your child's symptoms persist or are notably severe.

How can you relieve symptoms?

You can alleviate your symptoms by:

  • Apply a warm compress or heating pad to the affected ear for temporary relief.
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen can help alleviate discomfort.
  • Use over-the-counter ear drops specifically formulated for ear pain relief, following the instructions carefully.
  • Keep the head elevated while resting to help reduce pressure in the ear.
  • Avoid inserting objects into the ear canal, including cotton swabs, as this can worsen the condition.

When to seek help?

Typically, an earache tends to resolve within a few days.

It's advisable to seek additional assistance if you or your child experience:

  • Symptoms that show no signs of improvement after two or three days
  • Intense pain
  • Discharge of pus or fluid from the ear

How can a Lincolnshire Co-op Pharmacy help?

Our pharmacists are available to assist children between the ages of one and 17 who are experiencing moderate to severe earache symptoms that do not respond to pain relief.

They will use an otoscope to examine your child's ears for indications of infection, such as the bulging of the tympanic membrane.

They will also inquire about your child's medical history and additional symptoms which allows them to rule out more severe conditions that may require urgent referral to your GP or other healthcare resources.

If deemed necessary, our pharmacists can administer treatment with ear drops or antibiotics.

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