Ear Infection Symptoms in Children

By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., ACCESS Media Relations Specialist​
December 21, 2015

Small children and infants frequently experience infections of the middle ear. Spotting the symptoms early can help parents seek treatment before the condition becomes serious. 

"Children don't have strong immune systems," says Hazel Galicia, M.D., ACCESS Hawthorne Family Health Center pediatrician. "It's easy for germs and bacteria to take root behind the eardrum and cause an infection." Prompt examination of the ear can help doctors determine if an ear infection is present, or if another condition is affecting a child's ear.

Ear Infection Symptoms

​Symptoms of an ear infection often appear after a child has suffered from a cold or other illness. Common ear infection symptoms in children include: 

  • pain in the ear, often signified by pulling, tugging, or poking at the ear
  • difficulty lying down or resting the head (caused by ear pain)
  • difficulty hearing (which may present as dreaminess, absent-mindedness, and low attention span)
  • more crying than usual in infants
  • difficulty sleeping
  • fever
  • headache
  • irritability
  • loss of appetite
  • loss of balance
  • drainage of fluid from the ear

Any signs of ear infection symptoms should be brought to a doctor for examination. In the case of severe infections, doctors will generally prescribe a course of antibiotics such as amoxicillin. As with all antibiotics, the full course should be administered on the prescribed schedule, even if symptoms disappear.

If there is no severe pain or fever, doctors may wait a few days and continue observation rather than prescribing antibiotics immediately. Other conditions can cause ear pain, and doctors will want to be sure that the pain is resulting from an ear infection before administering antibiotics. ​