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It’s Sunday and my 3 year old son has an earache. Should I take him to the ER or an urgent care clinic?

Related Topics: Toddler, Emergency Room

Answers From Experts & Organizations (1)

Pediatric Physicians, PC and Emory University
30 Answers
457 Helpful Votes

I have a better idea: stay home.

There are a handful of causes of ear pain. An “ear infection” is infected fluid behind the eardrum, in a space called the “middle ear.” The medical term for this is “otitis media,” sometimes called “acute otitis media” to stress that it begins suddenly. Acute otitis media almost always occurs after a child has had nasal congestion for a few days, most typically from a cold. If your child complains of ear pain and hasn’t been congested, it probably isn’t an ear infection.

Even if your child really does have an ear infection, you don’t necessarily have to rush to have it checked. An antibiotic isn’t thefirst thing he needs. In fact, it may not be necessary at all!

So what should parents do about a weekend or middle-of-the-night earache?

  • If the child looks miserable and sick, he really should be seen right away.

  • If the pain is more mild or moderate, give him a dose of pain medicine like ibuprofen, or have him hold a warm heating pad against the ear. If the pain subsides with these simple measures, an emergency trip to the doctor or ER is not necessary.

What happens if you delay starting antibiotics for an ear infection? As long as the child isn’t super-miserable, it’s OK to wait a bit. Ear infections, it turns out, usually go away on their own. Waiting a day or two, if your child is reasonably comfortable, is a good way to avoid extra costs, hassle and antibiotics. 

Note that this advice is meant for children older than two who can speak and describe what they’re feeling. If your child is younger, you should call your doctor for more specific advice on whether you ought to wait a few days before being seen on the weekend.


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Read the Original Article: Earaches on the Weekend