Should Your Child See a Doctor?
- Injuries to the outer ear, ear canal or eardrum
Types of Ear Injuries
- Bruises and scratches of outer ear
- Blood clot of outer ear
- Ear canal bleeding due to scratch of ear canal (caused by cotton swab, fingernail, or medical ear exam)
- Punctured eardrum due to long-pointed objects (caused by cotton swabs, pencils, sticks, straws, wires)
When to Call Your Doctor for Ear Injury
Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If
- You think your child has a serious injury
- Bleeding won't stop after 10 minutes of direct pressure
- Skin is split open or gaping and may need stitches
- Outer upper ear is very swollen
- Pointed object was inserted into the ear canal
- Clear fluid is draining from the ear canal
- Walking is unsteady
- Severe pain
- Age under 1 year old
Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If
- You think your child needs to be seen
- Few drops of blood from ear canal due to minor injury, cotton swab (Q-tip) or ear exam
- Injury causes an earache or crying that persists
- Hearing is decreased on injured side
Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If
- No tetanus shot in over 5 years for DIRTY cuts (over 10 years for CLEAN cuts)
- You have other questions or concerns
Parent Care at Home If
- Minor ear injury and you don't think your child needs to be seen
Home Care Advice for Minor Ear Injuries
- Bleeding: Apply direct pressure for 10 minutes with a sterile gauze to stop any bleeding.
- Cleansing: Wash the wound with soap and water for 5 minutes.
- Antibiotic Ointment: Apply an antibiotic ointment such as Polysporin (no prescription needed) to any cuts or scrapes. Cover large scrapes with a Band-Aid. Change daily.
- Pain Medicine: Give acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) or ibuprofen as necessary for pain relief.
- Expected Course: Minor ear injuries heal quickly, usually in 2 or 3 days.
- Call Your Doctor If:
- Pain becomes severe
- Your child becomes worse
And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the "When to Call Your Doctor" symptoms.
- Holmes RE. Management of traumatic auricular injuries in children. Pediatr Ann. 1999; 28 (6):391-395.
This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.
Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.
Copyright 1994-2015 Barton D. Schmitt, MD. All rights reserved.