Symptoms of Ear Infections



Symptoms of Ear Infections

Rodney Lusk, M.D.

Hi, I'm Dr. Rodney Lusk, Director of the Boys Town Ear, Nose and Throat Institute.

Infections of the ear can involve the external canal or the middle ear. Most ear infections in children are in the middle ear.

Most children will have an infection by age three years. By six years of age, 40 percent of children will have had at least three ear infections.

Ear infections can be classified by the type of fluid in the middle ear. They can also be classified by how long the infection has been present. Acute, meaning sudden in onset or chronic meaning the fluid has been present for weeks.

Symptoms of acute middle ear infections include: sudden onset of pain associate with crying and irritability, tugging on one ear or head banging, fever greater than 100 degrees but it may be low grade, fussy at night or trouble sleeping, difficulty hearing, there may be poor balance, fluid or drainage of infected material is associated with a ruptured eardrum. Please see your primary care physician if symptoms persist greater than a day or are severe.

If your child is diagnosed with an ear infection, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic and may suggest the use of acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain relief. If there are no symptoms, your doctor may elect to observe the fluid but do regular checks to see if it has cleared. Follow up exams are very important to make sure the middle ear fluid has resolved.

For more information and videos on pediatric ear, nose and throat problems, please visit

In our Pediatric Ear, Nose & Throat series, Dr. Rodney Lusk, Board Certified Otolaryngologist at the Boys Town Ear, Nose & Throat Institute, explains the symptoms and classifications of ear infections.​