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What To Do When Your Child Has an Ear Infection

Published on May 22, 2024

Oh no! I think my child might have an ear infection! What do I do now?

The thought of your child becoming sick or having an infection can be stressful and scary, but here are a few things to keep in mind about ear infections that might help ease your worry!

How will you know if your child has an ear infection?

  • Keep an eye out for key symptoms in your child. If you notice signs like tugging at their ears, fevers, fussiness, trouble hearing or ear drainage, they might have an ear infection - which means it’s probably time to schedule an appointment with your doctor!

Will my child need antibiotics? What other options are there?

  • Maybe! Actually, about 80% of ear infections can clear on their own, without medication so listen to the advice of your doctor on what will work best for your child.
  • Special situations such as your child being less than 2, having a severe infection or being immunocompromised may necessitate antibiotics.
  • Pain and fevers from the infection can be managed with over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

How did my child get an ear infection? Are they contagious?

  • No, you can’t get an ear infection from others! Ear infections usually begin with fluid that has built up behind the ear. This can make a cozy place for germs to grow and cause infection.
  • Kids may have a higher chance of getting an ear infection if they have cold, flu or allergy symptoms, have daily exposure to germs (like at daycare or school), drink from a bottle or spend time with people who smoke.

How can I avoid an ear infection in my child?

  • Sometimes, it may be nearly impossible to prevent, but there are a few things you can do to decrease their risk.
  • Since many ear infections start out with viruses such as the cold or flu, decrease the spread of germs and encourage frequent handwashing, limit touching the ears with unwashed hands and avoid close contact with those already having any respiratory symptoms.
  • Keeping your child’s vaccine, including the flu and Covid-19, up to date may significantly reduce their risk of infection!
  • If your child is still breastfeeding, it will also help boost their immune system!


About the Authors

Hailey Nelson, MD, FAAP, IBCLC is a complex care pediatrician at Valley Children’s Charlie Mitchell Children’s Center. Dr. Nelson enjoys working with children of all ages and abilities and is especially passionate about providing the best possible care to medically fragile children and their families. As the ambassador for Safe Kids Central California, she is a vocal advocate for children’s wellness and regularly appears in news media discussing pediatric healthcare. She is also a licensed breastfeeding consultant, certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultants to support nursing mothers and their babies. Learn more about Dr. Nelson here. 


Dr. Paola Rodriguez comes to Valley Children's from the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine and is in her third year of Postgraduate Residency. Dr. Rodriguez believes in a philosophy of viewing healthcare as a whole and considering all intrinsic and extrinsic factors for patients when providing care. Learn more about Dr. Rodriguez and the care she provides to patients here.