When to See a Doctor for Ear Infection in Kids

when to see a doctor for ear infection in kids

Does your child seem fussier than usual? Are they tugging on their ears, protecting the side of their head, or particularly afraid of anything that might touch their outer ears? Most parents know exactly what these signs mean: an ear infection. But even experienced parents need Google to find out when it’s time to take their kiddos to the doctor and get an ear ache treatment.

It is your job as a parent to know your child well enough to know when something feels off and seek medical advice. However, your child may have never had an ear infection before, or you are wondering when over-the-counter treatments are not enough anymore. We want to help you get your kids treatment by explaining more about ear infections and common symptoms so you know when to see a pediatrician.

What is an ear infection?

Middle ear infections, medically known as Acute Otitis Media, occur when water gets trapped in the ear canal behind the eardrum. This lingering water reacts with bacteria and creates inflammation that presses on the sensitive eardrum, causing your child pain and discomfort.

Ear infections are most common in young children because their eustachian tubes are shorter and narrower than adult tubes. Water gets trapped more often, and your kids are prone to ear infections as a result. They will get middle ear infections in the winter most of the time and coincide with a cold or respiratory virus due to excess fluid in nasal passages.

Children also get frequent ear infections during the summer when they swim a lot, which is why you will hear parents call it “swimmer’s ear”.

Ear Infection Symptoms

Ear Pain

One of the easiest ways you can diagnose your kid with an ear infection is if they tell you they are experiencing ear pain. Older children can communicate their suffering clearer than younger children, and they can give you specific details you can share with a pediatrician. It can be more challenging with toddlers and babies that don’t talk since they might not be as vocal about their ear pain.

Signs to look for that may indicate they have an ear infection include tugging/rubbing their ears or sticking their fingers in their ears. You may think your younger kids are just being more moody or irritable than usual, but we recommend looking closer for other ear pain symptoms.


Many urgent care conditions your child will suffer from are accompanied by a fever, especially when it comes to viruses and colds. But you should consider an ear infection if their fever lingers for a few days without much relief or it does not break without over-the-counter pain relievers.

In combination with ear pain and other physical signs, this symptom will give you a more precise diagnosis. However, you can always consult with an in person or virtual pediatrician to be sure since they could have a worse condition you are unaware.

Hearing Loss

When water gets trapped in your kiddo’s inner ears, they could have difficulty hearing sounds that they could otherwise recognize. Your kids may display hearing loss by ignoring commands and requests, speaking, crying, or yelling louder than usual, or seeming confused when others are talking to them.

Lack of Sleep

Your small kids and babies can wake through the night if they suffer from an ear infection, even if they are good about sleeping from bedtime to the morning. Their ear pain can be so severe that their tiny bodies won’t let them enter deep sleep, causing them to toss and turn all night. If anything, this is a sign you need to get them over-the-counter treatment so they can find a good night’s rest.

When Should My Kid See a Doctor?

We recommend following The American Academy of Pediatrics advice, which is to take your child under 6 months old to a doctor right away if you think they have an ear infection. Ear infections in kids this young can worsen and cause significant health complications since their immune systems are not equipped to fight infections yet.

You can treat your kid that is older than 6 months with warm compresses, fluids, rest, and over-the-counter pain relievers. If symptoms do not subside after a day or so of at-home treatment, your child should see an in person or virtual pediatrician for additional support. They can assess and diagnose your child to see if they have any other medical conditions you do not know about and offer more specialized treatment.

Virtual Care for Your Child’s Ear Infection

It can be disheartening as a parent not to be able to provide immediate relief to your kids when they have intense ear pain. We understand you want your children to be healthy so they can enjoy playtime with you and their friends. It can also be challenging to receive immediate professional care due to the demands of everyday life, such as work, school, and location.

We believe Telemedicine and virtual pediatric appointments solve all these issues and help you be the superhero in your child’s life. You can schedule a virtual visit at any time to diagnose and treat their ear infection from the comfort of home. Give us a call at (888).961.8885, and we would be glad to answer any questions you have about online doctor appointments.

Misha Harris

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