When should I call my child's doctor for otitis media (ear infection)?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

If you suspect you or your child may have acute otitis media, or a middle ear infection, it is important to talk to your doctor. Even though many cases of otitis media get better on their own without medication in about three days, these infections can cause problems if they last longer or keep coming back. Some complications that may arise include a ruptured eardrum, hearing loss, and in rare cases, meningitis or an infection around the brain.

Dr. Rick C. Jensen, MD
Ear, Nose & Throat (ENT Specialist)

It can be tough for a parent to tell when a young child has an ear infection. In this video, Dr. Rick Jensen discusses the signs that it might be time for a trip to the doctor.

You should call your child’s doctor for otitis media if your child has common symptoms of an ear infection. This is especially important if your child has a fever and is less than two years old.

When your child has a middle ear infection, call your doctor if:

  • You give pain medicine and your child still has a severe earache for more than a few hours.
  • Your child looks very sick to you.
  • Your child still acts ill after 3 days of medication.

Call during regular office hours if:

  • Your child has a persistent fever.
  • Your child has persistent pain.
  • Your child has pus drain out.

Note: Because of the risk of a serious disease called Reye's syndrome, it is recommended that aspirin not be given to a child with chicken pox or influenza. Because the flu is difficult to recognize, talk to your doctor before using aspirin for any illness.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.