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Should Your Child See a Doctor?

Ear Injury

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Definition

  • 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

  1. Bleeding: Apply direct pressure for 10 minutes with a sterile gauze to stop any bleeding.
  2. Cleansing: Wash the wound with soap and water for 5 minutes.
  3. 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.
  4. Pain Medicine: Give acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) or ibuprofen as necessary for pain relief.
  5. Expected Course: Minor ear injuries heal quickly, usually in 2 or 3 days.
  6. 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.


References

  1. Holmes RE. Management of traumatic auricular injuries in children. Pediatr Ann. 1999; 28(6):391-395.

Disclaimer

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.

Last Reviewed: 8/1/2010

Last Revised: 9/14/2010

Copyright 1994-2011 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

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